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NAMA costs in environmental information court case total €71,350

The figure came from the Minister for Finance in an answer to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin deputy Pearse Doherty.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty
Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty
Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images

NAMA’S COSTS IN the recent High Court environmental information case totalled €71,350, while the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information incurred fees of €50,000, it has emerged this evening.

The figures came from the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, in the answer to a Parliamentary Question from Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty.

He asked the Minister for Finance:

further to the judgement in the High Court case between the National Asset Management Agency and the Office of the Commissioner for Environment Information, the total legal fees incurred by NAMA to date in the case; and the estimate of all legal costs including those of the OCEI.

Minister Noonan said he was advised by NAMA that costs totalling €71,350 have been incurred by them to date in respect of the case, while the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has advised him that the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information has informed him that the estimated fees incurred by them to date in respect of the case is €50,000.

Deputy Doherty said that the total cost is more than the total amount collected from all the Freedom of Information requests in 2011.

Deputy Doherty continued:

The case won by the Environment Commissioner last week against NAMA, which was initiated by Gavin Sheridan of thestory.ie, was an important victory for citizens. It proved that as a citizen, Gavin Sheridan had been entitled to information under ‘Information on the Environment Regulations’ which NAMA had attempted to deny him.

Doherty described access to information as “a citizen’s right” and said “this government along with the last has tried to censure that right”.

We can see that censuring in the fact that the NAMA spent over €71,000 fighting this case against another arm of the state, the Environment Commissioner. The Commissioner was forced to spend another €50,000 fighting the case, bringing the total cost to the taxpayer to over €121,000.

He continued that it is “imperative now that NAMA does not try to appeal this case, costing the state more money”.

I am also calling on the Government to look at moving towards a policy of open data for citizens, where information is provided as a transparency and accountability right, not a privilege.

Last Wednesday, the High Court dismissed an appeal by the State-owned ‘bad bank’ NAMA against a finding that it had a legal responsibility to deal with public requests for environmental information.

NAMA failed in its bid to overturn a finding by the Commissioner for Environmental Information, Emily O’Reilly, who had ruled in September 2011 that it was a ‘public authority’ as outlined in regulations on environmental information.

Read: NAMA loses High Court appeal over environmental information requests>

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