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Decision by senior civil servant over incinerator highlights failures of our self-serving politicians

letter of the day: blame game

Alban Maginness's ire with a senior civil servant for taking a decision on the Hightown incinerator (Comment, Sept 20) is a good example of blaming others for what is the collective failure of power-sharing to agree a waste management policy. Also, he writes as if the SDLP were peering through a window rather than 'in the room' when waste management decisions were made.

The Hightown incinerator would not even be in discussion had Belfast City Council not vetoed the best solution from arc 21 for a biomass plant on the Belfast Lough Shore, wasting years and millions of pounds in consulting fees.

It was the right decision then and now, but it was stymied by nothing other than political hubris. With power comes responsibility. If an incinerator should not be built at Hightown, could Mr Maginness tell us where he or the SDLP proposes it should go?

Mr Maginness cites his own party colleague Mark H Durkan's decision to veto Hightown, while his ministerial successor, Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard, was neutral on the proposal.

He appears to find this strange, but it illustrates what is wrong at the core of mandatory government. Instead of collective responsibility for policy decisions our system relies on a series of departmental fiefdoms where policy is at the whim of whatever party has the ministerial brief.

Then there's the old chestnut of 'faceless bureaucrats', a clever piece of displacement by Mr Maginness. Mr May, the Department for Infrastructure's Permanent Secretary, took the decision to proceed based on planning law and the Planning Appeals Commission's decision. Divisive self-serving politics for once had nothing to do with it. Our politicians could take a lesson there.

Should the Assembly return nothing will change. The mindset of 'there's no votes in that' will always prevail.

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