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Noonan denies ECB instruction to refuse information about IBRC

The finance minister says the ECB has not told Ireland to refuse Freedom of Information requests about the IBRC wind-up.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

MICHAEL NOONAN has denied that the European Central Bank instructed the Department of Finance to block any public requests for information about the liquidation of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

The finance minister said the ECB had not approached Ireland telling it to refuse any Freedom of Information requests about the winding-up of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

Nor, he said, had Ireland contacted the ECB to ask about its stance – though the ECB had informed Dublin that it would refuse any requests it received for information about the liquidation.

“The ECB has not and would not seek to influence the proper operation of national legislation,” the minister insisted.

The statement comes after the Irish Examiner repored this week that the ECB had instructed the Department of Finance to refuse any requests for information if it received Freedom of Information requests from journalists or members of the public.

Its report said the Frankfurt-based bank had told Ireland to refuse any requests, quoting an Irish source as saying “all negotiations are off” – possibly referring to talks on easing the terms of Ireland’s bailout conditions – if sensitive information was released.

TheJournal.ie has subsequently lodged similar requests for information about the IBRC liquidation with the ECB itself, where any refusal can be appealed and subsequently referred to the European Ombudsman.

“Throughout the period of the discussions between the Irish Authorities and the ECB the confidentiality of matters discussed was emphasised between the parties,” Noonan said, in response to written Dáil questions from Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath.

However, the ECB has not been approached in relation to documentation requested under specific FOI requests relating to the liquidation of IBRC nor has the ECB requested the Department not to release any such documentation.

Noonan said his Department would examine any requests for information about IBRC – though noting that the FOI acts exempted certain types of correspondence from release.

This includes most correspondence relating to Ireland’s international relations, a clause regularly cited when refusing requests for correspondence between authorities in Dublin, Brussels and Frankfurt.

“In the event that third parties object to information being released the Department will take a view on the nature of the information, the basis on which the information was received or acquired and the views of the third party, etc,” Noonan said.

“The Department will then decide whether the information should be released under the FOI Acts having regard to particular circumstances and the requirements of the public interest.

Read: We asked for copies of the ECB’s letters to Brian Lenihan. Here’s what happened

More: Lenihan letters: What’s been released, and what hasn’t

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Gavan Reilly

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