Public will have access to five-year-old Cabinet papers
Under a new amendment of the Freedom of Information Act, Cabinet papers from as recently as five years ago will be available on request for the first time ever.
The new FOI Bill proposed by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin was approved yesterday and will allow any applicant access to confidential government papers from a mere five years ago.
The standard process for any other FOI request will apply under the new legislation but fees have been substantially reduced. While the usual upfront application fee of €15 will still stand, appeal costs will be reduced by one third to €50 and internal review costs will be less than half the original fee at €30.
If the Bill is drafted into law before the end of the year, papers from the Brian Cohen-era will be available for review.
The Fianna Fail administration has previously been criticised by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition for undermining the purpose of the FOI Act. In 2003, then minister for finance Charlie McCreevy extended the period for Cabinet paper access under the Act from five to 10 years.
As such, the new Bill will revert to the five year rule as originally set. It will also no longer protect communications between members of Government and exemptions from this rule will only apply under very exceptional circumstances.