Obtained under the new FOI Act: the Department of Finance FOI request log for 2014 (to October).
Good morning. The letter this blog has been pursuing access to since 2011 has finally been published.
We pursued the letter because we believe the Irish public, and indeed the European public, have a fundamental right to access information, and be informed about decisions being made on their behalf. We believe access to information to be a fundamental right guaranteed by the European treaties, the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10) and by UN treaties.
We sought to vindicate those rights by seeking a letter we believed to be of enormous public interest. The public’s right to know is fundamental to functioning democracies. Without access to information, the public lives in darkness. Information is the oxygen of healthy democracies. Governments and public bodies hold a monopoly on information, and this monopoly needs to be challenged – always, tirelessly, and forever.
Gavin Sheridan & Fred Logue.
Posted in International.
– November 6, 2014
In light of comments made by ECB Governing Council member Patrick Honohan in the book on Brian Lenihan I recently resubmitted my request for access to the letter that had previously been refused to this blog by ECB President Mario Draghi.
I see today RTE is reporting that MEP Sean Kelly has also been seeking access to the letter.
On October 7, I sent a new access to information request to the ECB, again seeking the letter. We said:
…In a previous appeal to the EU Ombudsman and to Mr Draghi, access
to this document was refused. However new information has now come
It was reported this week that ECB Governing Council Member Patrick
Honohan has contributed to a book in which he outlines information
related to the contents of the November 19 letter. In the book he
“The Troika staff told Brian in categorical terms that burning the
bondholders would mean no programme and, accordingly, could not be
countenanced,” Dr Honohan writes. “For whatever reason, they waited
until after this showdown to inform me of this decision, which had
apparently been taken at a very high-level teleconference to which
no Irish representative was invited.” –
In light of the fact that an ECB council member has chosen to
publicly express the views being argued by the Troika at that time,
it now appears – given that the eurozone has not collapsed – that
release of the letter is not in fact a threat to the stability of
the eurozone. I can no longer see any reason why it should not be
released immediately in the public interest.
On October 15, the ECB responded. They said:
Dear Mr Sheridan,
As you will be aware, the ECB President mentioned in his communication to
the European Ombudsman in March this year that the Governing Council
made a commitment to re-evaluate the disclosure of the letter dated 19
November 2010 from Mr Trichet to Mr Lenihan at a “more advanced stage of
the post-programme surveillance”. The completion of the so-called
Comprehensive Assessment (CA) exercise by end-October would provide such
an opportunity to review the stance taken to date on the disclosure of
this letter in light of the outcome of the thorough review of the largest
banks’ balance sheets.
Against this backdrop and in view of the fact that the Governing Council
in all likelihood will re-evaluate the disclosure of the above-mentioned
letter in the course of November, I wanted to check with you whether it
would be acceptable for you that we keep your request on hold until
this reassessment has been concluded. Should it turn out, for whatever
reason, that such a re-evaluation could not be feasibly undertaken during
next month, I would, of course, inform you accordingly and we would
proceed with the formal assessment of your request in line with the ECB’s
Decision on public access to ECB documents.
Please let us know if the above is agreeable to you.
Many thanks & best regards,
I responded that I am happy to wait until November 30, 2014. We will see what happens.
– October 27, 2014
Thanks to Mark Tighe at the Sunday Times (Ireland) here is a copy of the Garda report into the Phoenix Parks concerts in July 2012. It was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 1997/2003 following an appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The report came about because of a controversy surrounding policing at the events.
His story on the report can be read on the Sunday Times website here (€)
This is the Information Commissioner’s decision in relation to the case.
Posted in FOIs.
– October 8, 2014
Journalist readers among you will know that print newspapers work in different editions. When I worked in the Irish Examiner there were two editions – first edition, which was the first print run and went to the four corners of Ireland in the early hours of the morning, and the second, later edition, which was finished later and went mainly to the local Munster audience (and was localised to that audience).
The same is true of the Sunday Independent. It has a “city edition” which is printed on Saturday night and you will see on the shelves in Dublin city centre on Saturday night. Later edition(s) are then later printed and distributed.
But I was surprised to see significant edition differences between a column that Sunday Independent editor Anne Harris wrote in reaction to a piece in the Phoenix this week.
In the city edition – the early one – Harris wrote quite a strongly worded piece defending her role as editor, following a Phoenix article recently which she described as “lies”. There was one critical paragraph that was substantially edited between editions (there are other changes too but I think this is the more significant).
The early edition of the paragraph was written thusly (emphasis mine):
Since, as I pointed out earlier, none of this is true, I am clearly not the only one defamed. Denis O’Brien is the major shareholder in INM. In theory, with 29pc of the shares, he does not control it. In practice, he does.
But in the later edition of the paper, it said:
Since, as I pointed out earlier, none of this is true, I am clearly not the only one defamed. Denis O’Brien is the major shareholder in INM. In theory, with 29pc of the shares, he does not control it.
That’s quite a difference. The online edition does not contain the bolded sentence.
I’m not sure this clearly significant change could be blamed on an over zealous sub-editor. The meaning of the entire paragraph has been altered.
Why was the column changed and by whom? Was it done with the permission of the editor and author? Which column represents the truly held beliefs of that author? Surely it can’t be both?
For the record here are photographs of both versions:
The early edition:
The later edition:
Posted in Uncategorized.
– July 20, 2014
We have received a copy of the amendment to the FOI Bill, below. At the outset we are concerned about one particular section:
There shall be prescribed for the purposes of this subsection an amount to be called, and in this section referred to, as the overall ceiling limit; and different such amounts may be prescribed for those purposes in respect of different public bodies or prescribed bodies.
This is something that was not mentioned in the press release to journalists. The Department mentioned the ceiling, but did not mention that different ceilings could apply to different bodies. We have no idea how this will be applied, but the power will be with the Minister, we assume, to raise and lower ceilings for different public authorities. We have to ask: why?
We will further analyse the proposed amendments and update on this blog.
Posted in FOIs.
– July 11, 2014
The Department of Agriculture today published the Indecon report into the financial mess at Bord na gCon. Worth a look.
Posted in Finance.
– July 7, 2014
Back in 2011 I wrote here that while the new Government proposed to restore the FOI Act to its pre-2003 position: “I trust not the words of politicians, but their actions..”
We were right to be concerned, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin went on to try and justify, repeatedly, the retention of an FOI fee regime (albeit slightly reduced).
Today it has emerged that the Government is proposing to abolish the upfront fee. I would again repeat: “trust not the words of politicians, but their actions..”. While we welcome any move to abolish fees, we must have sight of the proposed new wording of the Freedom of Information Bill 2013. Until we do, we cannot assess the significance of the announcement.
Posted in FOIs.
– July 1, 2014
For the record, and posterity.
Posted in FOIs.
– June 24, 2014