Who’s in Charge: FOI and the civil service

Today I wrote to the three TDs in my constituency to to express my concern at last minute changes to the Freedom of Information Act announced by Brendan Howlin on Friday.

These changes, if put into law, will mean Ireland has one of the most restrictive FOI regimes in the world.

Most worryingly, although only announced on Friday, these changes have been planned by the civil service for months, as is shown by a document obtained (ironically, though an FOI request) by Gavin Sheridan.

This document shows senior civil servants were already drafting plans to prevent multifaceted requests, themselves only made necessary because of the Irish fees regime, several months ago.

This raises the rather worrying question, who is behind these changes, the government or the civil service?

At a time when the government in the UK had just rejected proposals for a fees regime, it is appalling that a minister in Ireland would propose not to row back the FOI changes made by Michael McDowell in introducing fees, but to extend them to such an extent as to make FOI unworkable.

If you’re reading this, go to Who Is My TD? now, and express your disquiet at this development.

Leinster House. Image © Faduda
Leinster House. Image © Faduda

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.

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