Featured Articles

<< >>

Quote from Eithne FitzGerald The Minister who introduced the FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT into Ireland in 1997. Feb 20th 2014

‘Section 16 (of the Freedom of Information Act) is a Protection Against Arbitrary Decision Making . It’s Removal would be a Backwards Step’.

Letters – The irish Times – Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:14

A chara, – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin writes that the “Freedom of Information Act is being restored” (“Labour must defend – not apologise for – its role in Government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th). In removing section 16 of the current

KILLING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

DON’T LET THEM SHUT DOWN THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT Within weeks the 1997 Freedom Of Information Act will be removed from the statute book. An unreported section of its proposed replacement, (FOI Bill 2013) extinguishes the current legal obligation on public bodies to make

Ask All of Your Local, National and EU Representatives About Their Position on the Freedom of Information Act Changes

DON’T FORGET to ask all of Your Local, National and EU Election Candidates About Their Position on the Freedom of Information Act Changes. http://contact.ie/ or search for candidates in your area. (sorry can’t find a one stop shop).  

‘Our Right To Know’ – Music Video

 

Irish Times – Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:02

Sir, – Responding to Mr Laurence Vize’s plea (July 10th), I am glad to advise that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is proposing in his amendments to the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 to confirm that the information that public bodies are currently required to include in their “Section 15” and “Section 16” FOI manuals will now be provided for in the publication schemes required under the FOI Bill.

Publication schemes for FOI are a further example of the adoption of best practice in FOI from abroad in Ireland’s FOI regime.

They will help ensure that public bodies publish more information on a proactive basis outside of FOI than has ever been the case in the past.

The legislative provision will ensure that there is no potential for a diminution of the information that public bodies are currently required to make available in the public domain.

There is no question of public bodies deciding for themselves what should be included in their publication scheme.

These must be made in accordance with a model publication scheme made by the Minister following consultation with the Information Commissioner.

The code of practice for FOI is another important innovation in the FOI Bill, whose development has benefited from the pre-legislative scrutiny of the FOI Bill by legislators and also from the important report on the operation of FOI in Ireland prepared by a group of FOI experts, academics and advocates external to the public service. A draft of the code has been published for public consultation on the department’s website. – Yours, etc,

ÁINE GRIFFIN,

Press Officer,

Department of Public

Expenditure and Reform,

Quote from Eithne FitzGerald The Minister who introduced the FREEDOM of INFORMATION ACT into Ireland in 1997. Feb 20th 2014

‘Section 16 (of the Freedom of Information Act) is a Protection Against Arbitrary Decision Making . It’s Removal would be a Backwards Step’.

Awareness Raising / Peaceful Protest Outside Dail Eireann Wed 16 and Thurs 17/7/14

The New FOI act is being debated at Committee Stage in the Dail 16 and 17 July. We are gathering outside Dail Eireann from 11am -3pm to raise awareness about /protest against any proposed changes to the Index of precedents enshrined in Section 16 of the FOI Act. Facebook

Letters – The irish Times – Wed, Jul 9, 2014, 01:14

A chara, – Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin writes that the “Freedom of Information Act is being restored” (“Labour must defend – not apologise for – its role in Government”, Opinion & Analysis, July 4th).

In removing section 16 of the current law and replacing it with a new section 8, the Minister is conferring legal authority on all public institutions across the State to decide what criteria will be published for the making of decisions, including decisions that affect citizens’ entitlements.

This is in stark contrast with the current law’s section 16, under which all public bodies must publish the criteria for making such decisions. The publication of such materials enables citizens to ensure that decisions are being made in a fair and consistent manner and that like cases are being treated in a similar fashion.

The proposed code of practice and guidelines are not legally binding and in any event, almost an entire year after the Bill’s publication, the much-vaunted code of practice and guidelines have still not been published for examination by our elected legislators.

The apparent removal of upfront fees is a welcome development but the removal of the protections enshrined in section 16 will be a grim piece of work for democracy and for those who have neither the financial resources nor the capacity to protect their rights in the courts.

Those with sufficient financial resources will continue to be able to vindicate their rights in the courts. Section 16 went some distance in expanding that potential to those not so financially enabled to protect those rights.

Let us hope Mr Howlin will retain section 16 and improve it, rather than the proposed disaster for law-based transparency and accountability that will ensue upon its abolition. – Is mise,http://www.irishtimes.com/debate/letters/freedom-of-information-act-1.1859519

Forbidden Truth -Ireland 2014

I know the Silence within me

Waiting to speak.

Silence as patient as the stealthy talons that strangled it.

Nuala O’Loughlin

 

KILLING FREEDOM OF INFORMATION IN THE NAME OF FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

DON’T LET THEM SHUT DOWN THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT

Zambia-FOI-cartoon-559x440
Within weeks the 1997 Freedom Of Information Act will be removed from the statute book.

An unreported section of its proposed replacement, (FOI Bill 2013) extinguishes the current legal obligation on public bodies to make available to the public, information about themselves, including information regarding their procedures, guidelines, rules, precedents, etc for making decisions on entitlements and appeals against decisions. Sections 15 and 16 FOI Act 1997.

The public bodies include, HSE, Bord Pleannala, institutes of education, social welfare, city and town councils, etc.

Under a replacement section of the 2013 FOI Bill the public institutions -themselves- will decide what categories of information they will make available to the public. In addition, new powers are vested in the Minister to ‘revise’ such information if he or she “thinks fit.” to do so.

It is expected that all stages of the new bill will have passed through Dail and Seanad Eireann within the following 2 weeks, following which it will be codified into law.

There is still time to retain what rights are enshrined for the citizens in sections 15 and 16 but the clock is ticking and the failure of media and opposition to notice or appreciate the gravity of this literal ‘power grab’ -in the name of FOI- has meant that government and the senior echelons of the civil service nearly have this over the line.

“…if officials make public only what they want citizens to know, then publicity becomes a sham and accountability meaningless.”

Ask All of Your Local, National and EU Representatives About Their Position on the Freedom of Information Act Changes

DON’T FORGET to ask all of Your Local, National and EU Election Candidates About Their Position on the Freedom of Information Act Changes. http://contact.ie/ or search for candidates in your area. (sorry can’t find a one stop shop).

Www.wesleyjohnston.com-users-ireland-maps-ireland_dail_constituencies

 

‘Our Right To Know’ – Music Video

 

Democracy Will Suffer- Letter Published in Sindo

Published 27 April 2014 02:30 AM Sunday Independent
Madam – Credit is due in full measure to the Sunday Independent for publishing Gavin Sheridan’s critique of Minister Howlin’s FOI Bill, (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014).

One would think that a riposte from the minister or one of his many permanent or hired advisers will be forthcoming to deal with Mr Sheridan’s damning points, as the bill is scheduled to be voted into law by our elected legislators in both Houses of the Oireachtas over the coming weeks. One however, may not want to hold one’s breath.

When the issue of escalating charges for eliciting pertinent public information is fused with the proposed abolition of Section 16 of the current law, FOI Act 1997, we are looking at the effective closing down of freedom of information in Ireland.

The minister who introduced the Freedom of Information Act in 1997, Eithne FitzGerald, levelled pointed criticism at the proposed removal of Section 16 at an FOI conference on February 27.

The new provision replacing Section 16, places the power of decision as to what information public bodies shall make public, with the institutions themselves and with the minister, who is also empowered to “revise” such information as he “thinks fit” to do so (Section 8, FOI Bill 2013).

It is hardly a coincidence that the countries with the lowest levels of corruption and malpractice are the Nordic states. These countries also have entrenched transparency laws many of which are copper-fastened by constitutional protections.

Rather than moving in that direction, thus ensuring a permanent spotlight on our publicly funded institutions, which has never been so badly needed, Minister Howlin’s two pronged attack via costs and Section 16 abolition, is radically pulling us in the opposite direction of enhanced secrecy.

His appalling reply to Mr Sheridan, that the projected multiplier costs will be of value to the “Post Office”, perhaps illuminates a mindset drunk on power and a detachment from reality via a six figure salary and a similarly inflated and publicly funded pension.

Whatever the reasons, this Bill is a grim piece of work for democracy in Ireland.

John Sullivan, PRO,

Democracy Protection Campaign,

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/democracy-will-suffer-30221314.html

 

Another Broken Election Promise – Don’t Let Them Shut Down The Freedom Of Information Act!

Fine Gael Manifesto page 7 shot

Fine Gael are on the cusp of breaking their promise to restore the Freedom of Information act to it’s 1997 status. In fact in my humble opinion they are grooming it in such a way as to de-claw and neuter it’s effectiveness – all the time spinning a yarn that they are protecting it.

Put simply your right to useful information pertaining to your possible appeals against public bodies  is protected in Section 16 of the 1997 Act which requires a legally binding index of precedents to be kept. (Think of a courtroom drama- ‘is there a precedent for that?’). The new proposed legislation is abolishing that in favour of  Codes of practice. A code is fine for a small organisation whose members  implicitly trust each other. A Public Body requires something much more professional like an Index of Precedents.DO YOU TRUST THIS GOVERNMENT?

“Fine Gael has already published an Open Government Bill. It will significantly strengthen Freedom of Information; establish a “whistleblowers charter”; register all lobbyists; and create a new Electoral Commission.”

“Fine Gael believes there must also be a real shift in power from the state to the citizen.”

Fine Gael manifesto election 2011 page 7

fine gael manifesto page 73 shot

 

 

“Freedom of Information: Restrictions introduced by recent Governments to Freedom of information in the public sector will be reversed.”

Fine Gael manifesto election 2011 page 73