A LEADING academic has denounced decentralisation as a failed strategy which has undermined the institutional fabric of the state and become a charter for mileage claims, writes Anita Guidera.
Professor Brigid Laffin, principal of the college of humanities at UCD, told the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, yesterday that failures of accountability went beyond unethical behaviour to the performance of public institutions and those holding positions of responsibility.
Citing the example of the 2003 decentralisation project, she said there was not a single developed country in the world that would have treated its public institutions the way they were treated in the decentralisation process.
"It wasn't decentralisation. Decentralisation is a very good thing. This was a dispersal of public jobs throughout the country in the most extraordinary fashion and it went completely against the government's own spatial strategy," she said.
"Decentralisation was costly. It increased the fragmentation of our public institutions. It is a charter for mileage claims and a high cost to the Irish public."
She added that it had also failed politically. "Fianna Fail had its worst performance in the subsequent 2004 local elections," she said.
Her call echoed criticisms of decentralisation by two other academics in Glenties this week. On Monday, Ed Walsh, founder of the University of Limerick, described the policy as daft and called for its reversal.
Management consultant Eddie Molloy, meanwhile, called it the most scandalous political stroke of all time.