In a somewhat disappointing turn of events, the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information has withdrawn from High Court action between itself and the National Asset Management Agency. However the case between it and Anglo Irish Bank (IBRC) continues, and is still listed for hearing in the High Court on January 31st. Without going into the long (and boring to many people) details of the case, it seems as though NAMA argued that because I had narrowed the scope of my request over half way through the process, this meant I had effectively withdrawn my request. But actually I narrowed the scope of my request in the hope of expediting the process, since at that stage it had lasted 18 months. At no point did I withdraw it. But it was arguable, and lawyers do love to argue (and in this case at a large financial cost to the public). Since I am not the one involved in the case (and indeed was never a notice party to it) it is not my call to withdraw the original Decision, but rather that of the Commissioner. However, the crux of the issue remains and I hope the Anglo case resolves it. The core issue is how to read the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations 2007. And essentially that comes down to what “and includes” means in statutory interpretation. This question should be answered in the Anglo Irish Bank case, and any ruling that comes from it will affect NAMA (and indeed a range of other public authorities/bodies).
It is a relatively minor setback for greater transparency, but overall the fight continues both for more accountable institutions and for legal clarity.
Update: It appears the situation changed today. The case will proceed on May 17th, 2012.