O'Reilly welcomes FoI proposals


While proposals to reform the Freedom of Information remit have been welcomed by Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly, she had warned the devil would be in the detail of the new legislation.

Ms O’Reilly said Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin should be commended for winning a “battle” and getting the proposals through Cabinet, having faced “a significant amount of opposition from colleagues”.

The reformed legislation will be extended to public bodies such as the National Asset Management Agency, An Garda Síochána and the Central Bank but it will exclude commercial State bodies. The fees charged to appeal decisions rejected by bodies covered by FoI are also to be reduced.

Asked about Nama, which appealing a ruling stating it is subject to freedom of information requests to the High Court, Ms O’Reilly said it was not the intention of the act to “do harm”.

She said that when records were commercially sensitive and it was not in the public interest for them to be released, they were not.

Ms O’Reilly said staff in departments and agencies covered by FoI did not appear to commit as many records to paper as they did previously, with the events on the night of the bank guarantee in September 2008 an example.

“That is an issue of administration…if people are to behave in a way in which things are done properly and with good accountability and transparency, records will be made and that is an issue for senior civil and indeed for ministers to enforce,” Ms O’Reilly told RTÉ Radio this morning.

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