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People on the street agree: civil servants in charge might get job done



Claire Pollitt

Claire Pollitt

Una McAllister and Aideen Reid

Una McAllister and Aideen Reid

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Michael Moreland

Michael Moreland


Claire Pollitt

As legislation to give Northern Ireland's civil servants more legal clarity to make decisions was due to be fast-tracked through Parliament yesterday, the Belfast Telegraph headed into Belfast city centre to get the view from the streets.

And the overwhelming opinion on the Civil Service stepping up in the absence of ministers at Stormont was: "It's better than nothing."

While no one is quite sure whether to trust unelected civil servants with limited powers to govern the country, they certainly trust them more than our politicians.

Michael Moreland (41), a health service worker from Belfast, says there has been real frustration at watching his profession suffer due to a lack of decision-making at the top level.

"I work in health and I've watched as people in similar jobs in England have been getting their pay rises," he said.

"I haven't, the people I work alongside haven't. Perhaps the Civil Service will be able to move on that?

"Our politicians don't give the impression that they care no matter what they might say. If they cared they'd be at Stormont, working for us like they're supposed to. Perhaps the Civil Service will be able to move on that?

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"Health, education, jobs in the future are the things that are important to people.

"I know we haven't voted to elect our civil servants so they'll be under pressure to do a good job, but perhaps they can make better balanced decisions for the good of the people who live here?"

Claire Pollitt (44) felt any trust people once had in politicians has been lost.

"We don't have a government to make decisions," she said. "Where I work we need someone to make these decisions at the top.

"It's hard to know whether we can trust the civil servants to make the right choices for the country but something has to happen.

"Even though we don't know who these people are and what they'll actually be allowed to do, I trust them more than our politicians after what I've watched happen in this country for the past two years."

Una McAllister (18) and Aideen Reid (18) are from Ballymoney and training to become teachers. Both felt the profession they've set their hearts on joining is suffering from a lack of political leadership. "Maybe this way we'll get decisions which are not based on biased views," said Una.

Aideen added: "I want there to be a job for me in the future and it's important to see issues over education funding addressed. That can only be a good thing no matter who is making the decisions."

Stephen Brown and Ashlie Brown from Lisburn are both in their 20s.

"Can civil servants seriously make things any worse?" said Stephen.

Ashlie added: "There's so much that needs to be done in this country and while I've not noticed anything different in my day-to-day life without ministers at Stormont making decisions, I know there are issues out there which affect people and which need sorted, no matter who is in charge - somebody has to be."

Belfast man Dave Wilson (28) said there are two key issues he would like to see addressed.

"In the absence of Stormont and if the UK government isn't going to take charge, what other choice do we have other than giving the civil service the job?

"We've had a vacuum of power for nearly two years and it's something that needs filled.

"I know they're not elected and the Civil Service isn't really coming out of the RHI inquiry in a good light, but the people who have been elected don't seem to be doing anything to help the country.

"I'd like to see civil servants govern the power to make moves towards marriage equality rights and changing our abortion laws. These are things that really matter to people and we need to bring Northern Ireland up-to-date.

"Whether they will be able to do that I don't know, but we have to have something in place to make decisions."

Even the youth of today see the need for someone taking key decisions in Northern Ireland.

Adam Magill (15) from Carrickfergus said: "It's about time someone did a job in the interests of the country.

"While the civil service might not have people with experience in making decisions, they will at least get on with the job. It's not as if our politicians are doing anything."

And Katie Smilie (16), also from Carrickfergus, added: "Someone has to take charge. I can see our health service is being damaged. For the country to be a better place in the future for people like me, we need something in place to get it sorted."

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