John Walsh: A constant civil service ensures ongoing viability of the state

The ‘permanent government’ should be reviewed and reformed where necessary – but if it is undermined, the consequences will be momentous

Mary Lou McDonald: the Sinn Féin leader has said that the civil service was ‘constipated’ and needed a jolt to make it more efficient. Picture: Fergal Phillips

What did the Brits ever do for us? In Northern Ireland this question has cleaved the population. Unionists identify as British and want to remain part of the British state. Republicans regard Northern Ireland as a failed and illegitimate state, and want unification with the South. There is a growing middle ground whose positions are fluid. It remains a live issue and will become even more vexed if there is a referendum on Irish unity.