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Thursday 03 February 2022

Ministers have an obligation to protect the political impartiality of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, says FDA

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Responding to the announcement of the suspension of Irish Sea border checks, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman has called on ministers to ensure civil servants are given "clear, unambiguous advice" to protect from accusations of politicisation.

As reported by the Independent and Civil Service World, Penman argued that "civil servants have an obligation to uphold the rule of law. In contentious areas of legal dispute such as this, ministers have an obligation to protect the political impartiality of the civil service, rather than upping the stakes for their own political agenda."

Referencing a letter the FDA sent to the Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service last week, Penman called for the Northern Ireland Executive to now "urgently ensure that civil servants have clarity over the legality of what civil servants are being asked to do, as we called for last week." Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the time, the General Secretary argued that "whatever the motives of ministers, civil servants have a duty to uphold the rule of law."

Penman was also clear that UK government ministers could not be "bystanders on an issue which is entirely of their own creation", concluding that "their refusal to become involved is a green light to those who are seeking to exploit this contentious issue for their own political gain. They must now act urgently to find a resolution to this crisis before it damages the impartiality of the civil service and the integrity of government in Northern Ireland."

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