My political colleagues in the UK concerned about the encroaching power of the state (Caroline Spelman’s concerns about Local Authorities’ proposed right to enter a premises for tax and rates reckoning, for example)  may wish to pay attention to the predations of Ireland’s minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD.

Schools in Ireland are run, legally speaking, by their own independent boards of management; as a result, the school system is diffuse and administered as much (more,  in fact) by the church as it is by government.  The government is not responsible for the member payroll, and does not directly employ staff or manage the schools.

Imagine everyone’s surprise then, when the minister gave an order last Saturday to close all schools until this Thursday, as a result of the poor weather conditions in the country.  Some railed that, although the decision was in general terms somewhat sensible, the minister had no authority to make such a direction, and that it formed a potentially dangerous precedent.

So imagine everyone’s amusement when Mr. O’Keeffe directed on Monday that schools could open from Tuesday onward.  A Cnut like ignorance, one might say.

Caroline Spelman take note.

[Update – Dermot McNally points out that the mechanics of payroll is centrally administered.  Amended above]