Belfast Telegraph

Water crisis: Laurence MacKenzie's exit is not the end of it

Northern Ireland Water chief executive, Laurence MacKenzie probably had no choice in the end but to offer his resignation.

The public wanted someone held to account for the shambolic response to the water crisis which saw 40,000 homes in the province without supplies and as head of the organisation Mr MacKenzie's position was always going to be on the line. He insisted to this paper on Tuesday night that he would remain at the helm. But in the end his position became untenable.

Even the staunchest defenders of NI Water - wherever they could be found - must admit that the agency's performance after the recent thaw was abysmal. Its communications with the public, vital when something as important as water supplies are concerned, were more hindrance than help. Other deficiencies in the response may be exposed in the forthcoming inquiry. Mr MacKenzie must take some responsibility for the problems highlighted to date.

But it would be unfair to burden him with all the ills of NI Water. He is the third chief executive to take the hot seat there in as many years, indicating an organisation with deep-seated problems. As a man whose main experience is in the private sector, working with an arm's-length public sector body must have been a challenging task and something of a culture shock. It must also be emphasised that his room for manoeuvre within the political and regulatory restrictions placed on the body was fairly limited, certainly much more than if it was a private water company.

The expected demise of Mr MacKenzie at NIW must not be allowed to be the end of the matter. Questions must also be directed at the roles of the regulator and of Department for Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, and what impact they had on the crisis.

As for NI Water, it is difficult to see how it can attract experienced candidates to its top posts given the current poisonous atmosphere which surrounds the organisation.

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