Joe Biden ‘delight’, working through Christmas and maintaining a relentless focus on the future – NICS chief recalls ‘another exceptionally challenging year’

NICS chief Jayne Brady: “When faced with many immediate challenges, it could be easy to lose sight of the longer-term missions”
Source: Alamy

By CSW staff

21 Dec 2022

What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?   

This has been yet another exceptionally challenging year. While the NI Civil Service – like our UK counterparts – grappled with truly inimitable events such as providing sanctuary for Ukrainian refugees, the Omicron outbreak before last Christmas, and the ceremonial events which followed HM The Queen’s death, I found myself – time and again – taking huge pride in working alongside colleagues whose resolve is to deliver the most exceptional public services in the most incomparable circumstances. I was delighted to meet President Biden during St Patrick’s week in the US and took great pleasure in seeing first-hand the impact excellent public services can make, from our prison service to our voluntary and community sector.  

What was your most difficult decision in 2022?   

When faced with many immediate challenges, including the delivery of quality essential services amid increasing financial constraints, it could be easy to lose sight of the longer-term missions. I have taken the very conscious decision that this organisation should remain relentlessly focused on how we can evolve to deliver an even better service in the future, while also doing the best that we can today to overcome the challenges presented to us and the citizens we serve. This was not a difficult decision, as it is the right thing to do, but it has meant giving persistent attention and resource to the long-term ambition. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the NICS in 2023, and how will you meet that challenge as an organisation?   

While many of the challenges around energy, cost of living and financial constraints are not unique to us here in Northern Ireland, our collective challenge in tandem will be working in support of the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and working to support a newly formed executive across nine departments. The combined knowledge, advice and goodwill from colleagues across the service will see us meet those challenges head on. 

And personally, as a leader?   

Leadership often feels like one difficult decision after another and the most difficult decision for me is to continue asking people to deliver over and above, often with less finance and fewer resources. I’m very alive to that. But doing the right thing is rarely the easy option; it’s mandatory. The challenge is balancing sound advice, emotional intelligence and personal resilience. 

 

It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?    

Looking back to last Christmas and the outbreak of the Omicron strain of Covid was a particularly challenging time for the Northern Ireland Civil Service and our partners in the health trusts and business sector, particularly hospitality. We worked throughout the holidays, engaging, deliberating and doing our utmost to keep people safe. It was my privilege and responsibility to do so. I know people are experiencing tough times and there are challenges ahead, but I hope the upcoming festive season brings some comfort and joy across society and thoughts of a bright and optimistic 2023.

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