Sunday 19 November 2017

Coalition pledges to restore FoI scope

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Government promised yesterday to restore the right to full information from public bodies under Freedom of Information laws which were gutted by the previous administration.

The public will also have a right to information about the administration of the gardai and the Central Bank for the first time, as well as all private bodies which receive most of their funding from the State.

The Freedom of Information Act was introduced by the last Fine-Gael Labour coalition in 1997 -- but it was substantially watered down by Fianna Fail's Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy in 2003. He introduced large fees and restrictions on the amount of information that could be given out after a series of disclosures under the act had embarrassed his government.

However, information obtained under the weakened FoI Act still played a key role in exposing spending scandals in bodies such as FAS.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said yesterday that the key aim of his forthcoming legislation was to end the culture of secrecy in public bodies and give the public the "right to know".

It came after Fianna Fail brought in its own bill to reform the FOI Act in the Dail yesterday -- as it admitted it was "probably the wrong decision" to restrict the act in 2003.

The Government has not said yet whether it will include NAMA in the new act.

Irish Independent

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