Court documents in MCENR vs Information Commissioner & (eNet / Gavin Sheridan)

Given the publicity surrounding the National Broadband Plan in recent days it’s worth returning to the original National Broadband Plan from the early 00s – the Metropolitan Area Networks. These were fibre rings built at significant cost to the EU and the State around dozens of rural towns in Ireland. When it came to awarding a contract to operate and market these fibre rings, eNet in Limerick secured the first contract in a competitive tender process, which was also renewed in the next tender (one tenderer applied) . It was then renewed again to 2030 in 2017, by the Minister, without a tendering process at all.

I asked for the contract/concession agreement between eNet and the Department, and they refused to release it, going against a long held position of the Information Commissioner that once a contract is awarded and public money is involved, the public has a right to know about the contract/agreement itself.

We publish below the public court documents in relation to the High Court appeal that the Department ultimately lost and has now appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Information Commissioner opposed the Department in the High Court. I also opposed the Department as Notice Party, represented by FP Logue Solicitors and John Kenny BL.

Before starting, read the Information Commissioner decision that started the whole thing. It gives the background on what I asked for. This was the decision that was appealed to the High Court by the Department/Minister for Communications.

Now the court documents:

First is the outline legal submission of the Department: filed in February 2017. It contains 90 paragraphs of argument that the Information Commissioner had erred in law by deciding that the concession agreement for the most part should be released (despite the contract being commercially sensitive – the public interest is in it being released, argued the Commissioner).

Second is the Information Commissioner’s position, opposing the views of the Department.

Third is the Affidavit of eNet, by Finance Director Braonan Gardiner, generally supporting the position of the Department. eNet, unlike us, did not participate in the proceedings (so didn’t hire a solicitor or barrister). And as the judge noted “enet did not participate in this appeal other than by way of submitting an affidavit which was filed by the Minister on his own behalf.”

Fourth is our legal submission, opposing the views of the Department.

Taking into account these documents, and arguments before the court, Judge Noonan ruled against the Department.

The Department has appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal, which is due for hearing in February 2019.

Department of Public Expenditure submission on RTÉ reviewing services and cutting loss-making public service broadcasting

THE Department of Public Expenditure said RTÉ needs to cut costs more before any commitment should be made to give them extra funding.

RTÉ should be asked to review loss-making public service broadcasting and even look at what services it was providing, an internal Departmental briefing note says. The memo for Minister Paschal Donohoe was prepared as part of discussions over the sale of lands at the broadcaster’s campus in Montrose.

It said that both RTÉ and the Department of Communications were looking for funding for the broadcaster to be restored to 2009 levels when it was €20 million higher. However, the Department of Public Expenditure said that they “did not necessarily accept that further additional Exchequer funding should be provided or that the level of Exchequer funding should be restored to its peak”.É-Records-Complete.html

FOI documents for Social Protection ‘cheats us all’ campaign

Below is the full FOI release in relation to Ken’s story in TheJournal.

CONCERNS WERE RAISED in the Department of Social Protection over calling people “cheats” as part of the controversial advertising campaign on social welfare launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar while he was Minister for Social Protection.

The ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign was launched in April and caused considerable debate over highlighting welfare fraud so prominently and for asking people to anonymously report their neighbours.
Internal departmental emails obtained by reveal that with just weeks to go, the department considered changing the campaign title to something a little less forceful.

Read the 465 page document here:

Eight Garda audits

Some years ago we sought the following audit reports from An Garda Siochana:

Audit report NBCI & Appendix Control Failures NBCI
Expenditure Review 2013 Vehicle Maintenance Contract
Audit Report Mayo & Appendix Control Failures Mayo
Review Audit report Mayo
Audit of Procurement
Audit Regional Offices & Appendix Control Failures
Audit Report FCPO
Review of CCTV Systems

Many of the documents were refused and we ultimately appealed to the Information Commissioner. In February he found largely in our favour.

Below are the audits, as released.

Judgment in MCENR vs Information Commissioner

Below is the judgment delivered today in MCENR vs Information Commissioner (with eNet and Gavin Sheridan as notice parties). Some time ago we sought the contract between the Department of Communications and eNet, in relation to the managing and promotion of the Metropolitan Area Networks built around the country. The department refused our request, so we appealed ultimately to the Information Commissioner, who ultimately found in our favour (worth reading the whole decision)

The Department disagreed with the decision and so appealed to the High Court, arguing that the Commissioner had erred in law by ordering the release of the bulk of the contract.

There was a two day hearing earlier this year. I was represented by FPLogue Solicitors and John Kenny BL.

The judge dismissed the appeal, as outlined here:

Minister for Finance Diary 2016

Part of an ongoing process. This is the diary of Finance Minister Michael Noonan for the year 2016. We are also pleased to see the Department has started to routinely publish the Minister’s diary. This brings us to 19 full year of Ministerial diaries, the largest resource available.


Minister for Finance diary 2015
Minister for Finance diary 2014
Minister for Finance diary 2013
Minister for Finance diary 2012
Minister for Finance diary 2011
Minister for Finance diary 2010
Minister for Finance diary 2009
Minister for Finance diary 2008
Minister for Finance diary 2007
Minister for Finance diary 2006
Minister for Finance diary 2005
Minister for Finance diary 2004
Minister for Finance diary 2003
Minister for Finance diary 2002
Minister for Finance diary 2001
Minister for Finance diary 2000
Minister for Finance diary 1999
Minister for Finance diary 1998

Taoiseach’s appointments diary 2016

Part of an ongoing process. This is the Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s appointments diary for 2016.

In relation to the Taoiseach’s diary, items marked A, B, and C relate as follows: (i) Entries marked ‘A’ are being withheld as they relate to personal information as defined in Section 2 of the Act and are exempt under Section 37 (1) of the Act; which provides for the witholding of any record which would involve the disclosure of personal information; (ii) Entries marked ‘B’ relate to the functions of the Taoiseach as a member of a political party and as such are exempt records as defined in Section 2 of the Act, and (iii) Entries marked ‘C’ are being withheld under Section 33 (1), Security, Defence & International Relations.

Taoiseach’s Diary 2015
Taoiseach’s Diary 2014
Taoiseach’s Diary 2013
Taoiseach’s Diary 2012
Taoiseach’s Diary 2011
Taoiseach’s Diary 2010
Taoiseach’s Diary 2009
Taoiseach’s Diary 2008
Taoiseach’s Diary 2007
Taoiseach’s Diary 2006
Taoiseach’s Diary 2005
Taoiseach’s Diary 2004
Taoiseach’s Diary 2003
Taoiseach’s Diary 2002
Taoiseach’s Diary 2001
Taoiseach’s Diary 2000
Taoiseach’s Diary 1999
Taoiseach’s Diary 1998

Commissioner orders An Garda Siochana to release more records

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This time last year we sought certain records from An Garda Siochana. These included several audits that were carried out (we knew of audits because we had earlier sought the audit log). AGS refused to release most of the records we sought. This is what we sought:

1) The following 2014 audit reports:

Audit of NBCI
Expenditure review 2013 Vehicle Maintenance Contract
Expenditure review 2014 GoSafe Camera Contract
Audit Mayo Division
Review Audit Mayo

2) The following 2013 audit reports:

Audit of procurement
Audit of the Serious Crime Review Team following Allegations of Financial Irregularities
Audit of the Offices of the Regional Assistant Commissioners

3) The following 2012 audit reports:

Audit of Compensation Claims
Audit of Controls in the Fixed Charge Penalty Office
Audit of Tranman System
Review of CCTV systems

We appealed to the Information Commissioner, who has now ruled on the issue. You can read the full decision here.

The Commissioner has directed release of large numbers of records, including portions of documents that were previously redacted. We will publish all records upon release.

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Representations received by Finance

This is a log of representations received by the Department/Minister for Finance from January to May 2016. Representation, or correspondence logs, are interesting to see how a Minister or Department is interacting with lobby groups, politicians, or members of the public. Most of the redactions are for mobile telephone numbers (ie personal information).