Sinn Féin

09/02/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/02/2021 05:59

Deletion of Merriongate texts is more evidence FOI is in crisis - Mairéad Farrell TD

2 September, 2021 - by Mairéad Farrell TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Mairéad Farrell TD, has today said that the events of the last few days confirm her contention that Ireland's Freedom of Information (FOI) regime is in crisis.

Despite numerous deputies, journalists and transparency campaigners having sought the records of this correspondence under FOI, they were first told they did not exist only for it to be later revealed that they did exist but had been deleted.

Teachta Farrell said:

'I have been stating for the last 18 months that our FOI regime is in crisis and that this government has brought it into disrepute.

'I heavily engaged with those who have been the most frequent users of FOI and last year I conducted a survey of many of the countries top journalists and transparency campaigners, where this was confirmed. I pointed out numerous deficiencies and areas where there are inappropriate redactions, unjustified refusals, and those repeatedly failing under the obligations of the Act.

'In June I managed to get Minister McGrath to concede to a review of the Act, and despite his protestations that it was 'robust and functioning well', the fact that he has had to launch this review gives lie to that contention.

'The recent example of Merriongate and of Ministers deleting texts and then providing spurious reasons to justify this, brings the FOI regime into further disrepute.

'I have crafted my own legislation which looks to remedy some of the most obvious deficiencies and improve accountability, so that those who are failing in their obligations under the act can be referred to the Standards Commission (SIPO) for investigation. This will be introduced when the Dáil returns.'