You are now entering the Parlon zone…

Breaking reports this morning on a Sunday Tribune story that Tom Parlon, former junior minister in charge of the OPW, is to lead the Construction Industry Federation in a legal challenge against the policies of the OPW on awarding fixed-price contracts.

This is a policy that he championed while in Government. He is quite likely to have a very in-depth familiarity with any internal debates and briefings that might have been conducted with regard to the communication and operation of this policy.

It is this access to and familiarity with internal policy formulation that requires civil servants in ‘designated positions’ to wait 12 months before taking on roles in the private sector.

Arguments to the effect that Tom Parlon was sacked as Junior Minister by the electorate when he was not returned as a TD and as such no ethical issues arise are tenuous at best. The logic of this conflation would appear to be that the electorate voted Tom Parlon out of his ministerial office directly (and by extension elected the Taoiseach’s brother in to replace him).

The election was not a vote on Mr Parlon’s conduct as a junior minister but on his ability to out-campaign his political opponents in his electoral consituency. In that he failed to achieve his goal. Even if he had been re-elected there is no guarantee that he would have retained that junior ministry (perhaps he would have been given another role in Government). Would it have been ethically acceptable for him to take on the CIF role as a back-bench TD with no ministerial role in the OPW?

Mr Parlon failed to be elected, he was not sacked by the electorate. His constituency opponents out performed him (in particular Brian Cowen who got 27% of first preferences) and he did not regain his seat. A consequence of his failure to be re-elected as a TD is that he is no longer a junior minister and is at a loose end. This loose end he has tied up by taking a well paid position with the CIF.

There are doubtless other roles he could have taken on that would not raise the question of ethics. However he opted to take on a role that requires him to round on policies he championed in his previous role, perhaps drawing on knowledge he might have gained in that role which raises the question of ethics and the standards we expect of the political masters of the Civil Service.