This article first appeared on Broadsheet.ie on February 22nd. Here I look at the political dimension to the reported breakdown in relationships between senior management in the Department of Defence and the Irish Defence Forces/Óglaigh na hÉireann and make the point the problem has nothing to do with the personalities concerned, but rather the structural relations between the two leaderships and the perception that the Department of Defence is not championing and arguing the cause of the Defence Forces within government, most particularly the Department of Finance, but that this is impossible to do without a committed minister with political clout at cabinet, one who puts Defence first, not second.
I discuss the contents of this article here: https://vimeo.com/515750083
A few months after I started working as the special adviser in the Department of Defence, Gerry Hickey, the late and much missed programme manager to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, phoned me to check on some departmental facts and figures for the annual Programme for Government review.
“…and roughly how many civil servants work in the Department of Defence”, he enquired.
“From what I can tell… about half of them”, I acerbically responded.
There was an exasperated silence at the other end of the line. Not for the first time my knack for being smart-assed at the wrong moment was backfiring.
“What was that?” he asked.
Luckily, I had the number to hand as there had been a parliamentary question on that topic a week or two before. From memory there were about 380 individual civil servants, but as some were on job sharing schemes this was roughly equal to 360 whole-time equivalents.