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"Experts aren't always right" - Taoiseach defends FOI bill

The initial fee of €15 is “relatively small”, the Taoiseach said.

Image: jdwfoto via Shutterstock

THE TAOISEACH TODAY defended plans to increase fees for Freedom of Information requests, saying that the €15 initial fee was “relatively small”.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly cited international reports from legal bodies, human rights watchdogs and civil liberties groups in asking the Taoiseach why the Government was increasing the cost of FOI requests.

“I believe you set out to do the right thing,” said Donnelly, who went on to list the members of the Government who had opposed the Fianna Fáil government’s changes to the bill in 2003.

Enda Kenny however was unmoved by the level of opposition to the bill.

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“We’ve had national experts and international experts available to us by the thousands on so many things,” said Kenny.

Experts don’t always get it right themselves, either.

Kenny said that Brendan Howlin had extended the law and that personal requests, as well as the first two hours of request fulfilment was free.

The Taoiseach said that the average cost of retrieval was €600 and that the €15 fee was “relatively small”.

The Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley, however, disagrees that the fee is a “token”.

“Mr Howlin is correct in stating that, in the context of State expenditure, a €15 charge is insignificant. The term “token fee” suggests that it is more by way of a deterrent to requests. If the token fee acts as a barrier to FOI requests we will have paid a high price.

“For a struggling freelance journalist or a local residents association the implications of the new fee structure are enormous. The possible liability for a €60 or €80 “token” charge would be sufficient to deter the secretary of a community group from lodging an FOI request.”

Read: TDs call for debate on FOI bill to be adjourned pending more consultations

Read: How will the new Freedom of Information charges compare to other countries?

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