Tuesday 20 February 2018

Stephen Donnelly: Fees go against very idea of 'freedom of information'

Failing to remove the charges for FoI requests is another wasted opportunity for reform, says Stephen Donnelly

Brendan Howlin confirmed there will have to be supplementary estimates before the end of the year
Brendan Howlin confirmed there will have to be supplementary estimates before the end of the year

Stephen Donnelly

AS WE waved the Troika off last week, there was a familiar sense of deja vu in the Dail as another promised reform was cut off at the knees. This time it was the pledge to reduce state secrecy by creating a modern Freedom of Information regime.

Not the sexiest of topics, I'll grant you. But the last few years make it crystal clear, to even the most disengaged punter, that secrecy in politics and public administration hasn't worked out too well for us.

In 1997, then Labour TD and Minister of State Eithne Fitzgerald introduced the Freedom of Information Act – a fantastic move, which meant that the public and the media could access many official documents for the first time. It's pretty well accepted around the world that this sort of scrutiny tends to keep 'the establishment' on their toes. Just think of the dark deeds still emerging from our recent and not-so-recent past that might have been prevented by this sort of public power and scrutiny.

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