Mediocre to poor Ministers don’t write their own speeches. They read the speeches written for them by their civil servants as amended by their political advisors.
The Fianna Fail Ard Fheis is on this week. Therefore, there have been a great deal of Civil Servants working hard on speeches for the last month. Here, based only on guesswork, is a list of their recent tasks.
1) Email the heads of all the departments in your Minister’s department. Explain that you are working on the Minister’s speech and need at least two projects or achievements from each one of them. Remind them to be mindful to select their ‘sexiest’ projects.
2) Wait 4 days.
3) Contact the one department head who has responded and thank them for their alacrity. Point out that the introduction of a newly designed form doesn’t meet the Minister’s definition of sexy and ask for a second pass. Contact all the other department heads reminding them of their obligations. Include a vague reference to the Secretary General, to underline that you’ll tell on them if they don’t play.
4) Wait 3 days.
5) You will now have about 12 things on your list. 7 of them will be from a particularly eager department head, who will have pulled all his staff off their daily tasks and had them compiling their self-justification report for the past two weeks. More than half of all the projects will have footnotes explaining why they aren’t running according to plan. For your eager department head, this will include a shortage of staff doing their normal day jobs.
6) Start to drop in on the unresponsive department heads in person, reminding them you need their input.
7) Start to write the speech. As your knowledge of the projects you’ve been sent begins and ends with the descriptions you’ve been given it ends up resembling a shopping list.
8) You now have a rough draft of your speech, with carefully worded caveats to elide the problems which used to live in the footnotes. Send it to the Sec. Gen. for notes.
9) Continue to chase the last die-hard department head. They continue to agree to and ignore deadlines for delivery of their description of what they do.
10) Enter a horrible endless round of revisions as everyone chips in with mutually exclusive suggestions for changes. In the main these will be nit-picks around certain words. It is important to keep a copy of the pre-revision text. The structure of your speech is now set. It still reads like a list of mostly unimpressive administrivia linked by non-sequiturs.
11) Race to the finish and hand the final, approved draft to the Sec. Gen. to pass on to the Minister. The Minister will take issue with most of the changes suggested by the previous parties. Reintroduce the pre-revision text which will now be accepted by all.
12) Finally, listen to your Minister deliver your speech with inappropriate intonation as though reading aloud in a slightly slower streamed classroom. Wince when they wander off the page. Groan when they try to add their own jokes or even deliver their advisors’. Most painfully, realise that you are a pedestrian and uninspiring speechwriter.
13) Find your last department head has emailed you their contribution when you go in the following morning.
Some Real Live Ministers’ Speeches.
See if you can spot the bits their Civil Servants toiled so hard to assemble like meccano.
*Hint- they are sometimes neatly separated out by a little line of stars*