Release of McKillen documents refused due to commercial sensitivities

Fianna Fáil called this week for documents to be released in full adding that just six of 19 documents requested had been provided

John Moran, secretary general of the Department of Finance, said he cannot release documents requested by property developer Paddy McKillen under the Freedom of Information because of commercial sensitivity. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

John Moran, secretary general of the Department of Finance, said he cannot release documents requested by property developer Paddy McKillen under the Freedom of Information because of commercial sensitivity. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 21:01

The secretary general of the Department of Finance, John Moran has said he cannot release documents requested by property developer Paddy McKillen under the Freedom of Information because of commercial sensitivity.

During Leader’s Questions on Wednesday the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for documents requested from the department under an FOI request last August to be released in full adding that the department had released just six of 19 documents requested from it.

Mr Moran told the PAC that the only FOI request which the department was aware of which fitted in with this description had been made by Mr McKillen.

However, he clarified that six documents made under this request had been released under the FOI Act while a further three documents were already in the public domain via parliamentary questions meaning they did not need to be released under the Act. The remainder were refused on the on the basis of commercial sensitivity.

Mr Moran told the committee that the outstanding documents “included a number of approaches to the department...containing offers to in fact buy various assets held by IBRC”.

He said, having examined the documents the night before the committee, he could not release them because it would “in my mind expose the department to an unnecessary risk of litigation by parties who might describe our release of them as inappropriate” but said he welcomed the fact that they had now been submitted to the commissioner for adjudication “so that we can have a redetermination on whether or not they are still commercially sensitive”.

He said a “key ingredient” of whether documentation could be disclosed was commercial sensitivity but that this could change with the passage of time, adding that the information commissioner may deem that the information is no longer commercially sensitive.

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