FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

 

Sir, - Government spokespersons, lately, have been quick to respond to justified criticism of their efforts in regard to Freedom of Information, and Compellability of Witnesses to Oireachtas committees. This is a clear illustration of their master's uneasiness in living up to their promises of openness, transparency, and accountability.

The Freedom of Information Bill contains so many exemptions that it may very well render the Bill's general principle unattainable.

The Government's Compellability, Privileges and Immunities Bill as published, which attempts to give Oireachtas committees much-needed powers, is an extremely restricted nod in that direction. The much awaited Government amendments to their own Bill are merely more of the same governing "through a pane of (frosted) glass".

This Government came to office with the promise of openness, but have fallen at every hurdle in this regard. Apart from the above examples, their refusal to allow proper Dail reform is now acknowledged by even their most ardent supporter. Their reneging on a commitment to change Cabinet confidentiality has been well highlighted.

Another hurdle is looming for the Government. I, on behalf of Fianna Fail, have tabled an amendment to the Compellability of Witnesses Bill proposing that journalists in future, coming before Oireachtas committees, cannot be forced to disclose their sources. No doubt this Government will again find some excuse to reject this proposal, confirming their "tag" of being the "most secretive Government in the history of the State".

Surprise us, John, Dick and Proinnsias! - Yours, etc.,

Fianna Fail Chief Whip, Dail Eireann, Dublin 2.