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My long-time friend, Eamon Tuffy, socialist and former county cllr, reminded me recently that it’s no longer clear if South Dublin County Council has a county manager. That post now seems to be Chief Executive.* It might be argued that this makes no difference. However, it is certain that the change was discussed and decided upon. In other words, there are reasons.

The change was, moreover, not done in isolation. There are now “Directors of …” and the council is adamant that it will redefine citizens as customers.

What we are witnessing is our local county council taking part in much wider phenomenon: corporatisation. **

Too many local politicians want to be community workers and to avoid bringing politics into … well, politics – and they’ll try to convince themselves that words don’t matter.*** Words do matter and these changes will appear over and over in media in order to drive home their acceptability and the acceptability of the political changes they reflect.



  1. Having worked in social welfare for years, we often got this criticism (that the term ‘customers’ was corporatist)… as with county councils, many of the people who had business with us were not citizens; and making non-citizens feel second-class is the last thing you want to do. You couldn’t even call people who have business with local authorities ‘residents’ as they’re often not.

    Can you suggest a better term than ‘customer’?

    • Colum McCaffery
    • Posted September 16, 2014 at 11:43 pm
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    • Reply

    Stephen, Thanks for the comment. The former Co. Manager of SDCC made the same point. In the absence of any data or indeed even a solitary complaint I find it impossible to accept that the reason for the change from “citizen” to “customer” was concern for the feelings of non-citizens. The change to “customer” was part of a package of terminology which signalled a move away from public service.

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