O’Reilly comments expose govt’s agenda on FOI

Labour Party Spokesperson on Finance, Deputy Joan Burton, has called for the “immediate withdrawal of FOI charges” set to be introduced in little under a week, following comments by the Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly that the charges will act as a “financial disincentive” to those appealing FOI decisions.

Deputy Burton commented, “It is virtually unprecedented for a public official of the status of Information Commissioner to admit that such a government decision is not in the public interest. Emily O’Reilly has conceded that the €150 fee to appeal a decision is not standard practice in overseas FOI legislation.

“Moreover, it is absolutely ridiculous that this fee will go to the government department from whom the information is requested, rather than to the office of the Information Commissioner.

“This lays bare the fact that the exorbitant charges are not only an attempt to withhold information, but are also a further taxation on the public.

“Emily O’Reilly’s comments prove that there was absolutely no consultation between the government and other stakeholders in the FOI process before these charges were set.

“She has admitted that the government is placing financial obstacles in the way of the public, and I am calling on Charlie McCreevy to abolish these charges immediately and reinstate full and open access to public information.”