NAMA case first day

The Irish Times reports today on the stuff that happened in the High Court yesterday (though references to Freedom of Information are confusing, the case is not concerned with the FOI Act, but is about access to information generally).

The case will get underway again this morning but I wanted to make a couple of observations on what happened yesterday.

First, Brian Murray SC (representing NAMA) repeatedly emphasised that if my and the Commissioner’s reading of the legislation was correct, it would have (in suitably dark tones) bring “a whole swathe” of bodies under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regime. He even listed bodies “like the Central Bank” which could be subject to such onerous requests. (The Central Bank is in fact already under the AIE regime), or, horror of horrors, bodies in the semi-State sector (CIE, Bord Gais and the ESB are already in fact covered by the AIE regime) or even the DPP (which may fall under the judicial bodies exemption), but even if it did, imagine a public body like the DPP having to answer AIE requests? Terrible stuff.

Much of the argument centered on what “includes” or “ambiguous” means and how the legislation should be interpreted. Niamh Hyland, for the Commissioner, used mine and Fred’s logical construction that public authority means X and includes Y, where X is the list of bodies in a) to c) and Y is the list of bodies in (i) to (vii) and that the legislation should be interpreted as the Commissioner outlined in her decision.

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