Tuesday 12 December 2017

NAMA to be subject to freedom of information law

Lyndsey Telford and Tim Healy

THE National Asset Management Agency will be subject to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, under new legislation being drawn up by the government.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform confirmed reforms to FOI legislation was being planned that will cover the likes of the Garda Siochana, the Central Bank, and NAMA.

However there are expected to be significant restrictions on what will be available regarding the state bad bank, due to commercial considerations.

"Legislation has not yet been drawn up but given the fact that NAMA operates in a commercial market, it would be reasonable to expect certain restrictions in place on what will be available," he said.

The news came as NAMA appealed a ruling by the Commissioner for Environmental Information Emily O Reilly that it is a public authority and therefore subject to freedom of information requests.

In a ruling made last September, Ms O'Reilly found the agency should be subject to information requests under environmental freedom of information after finding that it was a public authority within the meaning of provisions of the 2007 European (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations.


Ms O'Reilly has acted as Commissioner for Environmental Information, in addition to her roles as Information Commissioner (under the Freedom of Information Acts) and as Ombudsman, since 2007.

She made her ruling after Gavin Sheridan, an online journalist, sought information in February 2010 on NAMA under a freedom to environmental information statutory instrument known as an EIR (Environmental Information Regulations).

NAMA refused to supply the information. It said the refusal was justified on the grounds including that it was not a public authority within the meaning of the 2007 regulations.

It wants the High Court to overturn her ruling of September 15 last.

Opening the case in the High court yesterday, Brian Murray, counsel for NAMA said that Ms O'Reilly had erred in her conclusion on grounds including that she did not apply proper principles of statutory interpretation in what can be defined as a public authority under the 2007 Regulations.

Opposing the appeal, Niamh Hyland, counsel for the Commissioner, said her client's decision that NAMA was a public authority was "absolutely correct" and should not be disturbed.

The case before Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh continues.

Irish Independent

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