State is ordered to release redacted Anglo data
Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30
The Department of Finance faces criticism over its "unsatisfactory" handling of a request for documents relating to the liquidation of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
Department officials have now been ordered to release information redacted from a letter from former Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) chairman Alan Dukes to Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
In a decision which will come as a major embarrassment for the department, the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) found it did "not appear to be aware" of basic procedural provisions in Freedom of Information legislation.
The records at the centre of the row had been sought by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.
Stephen Rafferty, an OIC investigator, was scathing of the manner with which the department dealt with the TD's request.
According to his investigation report, the department missed two statutory deadlines.
And when it did partially release the letter to the TD, the manner in which this was done was "clearly incorrect".
The investigator also found the department redacted a portion of Mr Dukes's letter, citing an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act which did not actually relate to what was redacted.
Mr Rafferty annulled the department's decision and directed that the redacted information be released.
The department will have to appeal to the High Court if it does not agree.
Mr Rafferty said he expected the department to take note of his concerns and put appropriate procedures in place.
Ms Murphy said the investigator's report proved she had "been thwarted in obtaining answers regarding the department's relationship with IBRC".
She referred to a previous contribution in the Dáil on the relationship between the department and senior IBRC management, which she claimed was "fractured to such an extent" that Mr Noonan was concerned he was not in a position to give accurate information regarding IBRC issues in the Dáil.
"The information at the heart of this request is crucial in determining whether or not the minister was forced to act prematurely in winding-up IBRC because he was worried about what was happening in IBRC outside of his control," she added.