GOVERNMENT PAPERS FROM 2008 are set to become available as a result of changes to Freedom of Information (FOI) rules the Department of Expenditure and Reform has confirmed.
A story in the today’s Irish Times reported that following a cabinet meeting yesterday the government had agreed to overturn changes to the FOI Act which extended the five year rule to ten years.
The announcement should lead to an increased amount of information in the public domain about a vital period in recent Irish history which includes the run up to the bank guarantee in September 2008.
The original FOI legislation was intended to give both the public and the media access to requested information about the workings of government and other public bodies. Information on government deliberations was to be kept private for a period of five years but changes brought in by Fianna Fáil in 2003 extended the waiting time to ten years.
The €15 fee for FOI requests is set to be retained under new proposals but fees for internal review are being reduced from €75 to €30 and fees for appeal to the Information Commissioner are being reduced from €150 to €50.
Last year the current Government gave an hint towards the kind of FOI reform it was planning which included the removal of the list of public bodies covered by FOI rules to be replaced by a general definition public bodies.
The government confirmed that it will not extend the FOI Act will to commercial state bodies such as CIE, ESB and Bord na Móna because of commercial sensitivities.
There is to be increased access to Gardaí and Defence Forces records but these will be subject to a ‘high level of protection’.