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Freedom of Expression

Medical Negligence and “Doctor X”

In January 2008 we reported the publication of a book by an anonymous Irish doctor, detailing the failings of the Irish hospital system. See a report HERE. The doctor was running a website and was featured speaking on national radio. The website is now not to be found and the book is not readily available. Medical errors happen everywhere; they are not unique to Ireland. In the USA and the UK, the responsible authorities collect statistics to find out why […]

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News, fit to print?

It is easy to become tired. Tired of bad, inadequate newspapers advising us how to choose and buy from a range of corkscrews, or baby buggies, or, inevitably, houses. Then we get quality information, if we search for it, HERE Timothy Snyder, the source of the information, is the author of “Bloodlands”, a history of the part of Europe that lies between Germany and Russia. Of the Ukraine he writes: “The country, Ukraine, was in effect an oligarchy, where much […]

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Lewis Carroll’s Freedom of Information Bill 2013

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Maybe it was the lateness of the hour or maybe it was just the effect of a couple of days of unexpected trouble but minister Brendan Howlin today told us why he wants to charge €15.00 in respect of FOI requests. The Minister was on his second day in Committee. The session had started with him announcing that he wanted to withdraw his controversial amendment to Section 12, multiplying Ireland’s FOI Fees. He wasn’t abandoning his plans, he had just […]

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The Freedom of Information Bill 2013, legally speaking

secret stamp by RestrictedData on Flickr

The Government’s Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 to 2003 is, arguably, illegal. The modern understanding of the right to Freedom of Expression embraces also the right to receive information. Restrictions on the right to free speech and/or the right to receive information are, in principle, breaches of legal provisions safeguarding that right, including the Irish Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights […]

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What price Freedom (of Information)

Brendan Howlin’s department is defending its plans to multiply FOI fees by relying on discredited figures originally produced by B. Ahern.

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Freedom of Information: Fees to be multiplied in new amendment

Pile of Euros quote

As you may know, I made efforts this August to highlight a problem with Section 17 of the new Freedom of Information Bill. I pointed out that S17(4) sets out that Civil Servants could pretend that their computer files were made of paper. See “The Irish State wishes to uninvent computers with new FOI Bill” for how that worked. I also said that I thought the intent in this perverse legislative drafting was to deprive Gavin Sheridan of TheStory.ie of […]

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Government gives welcome commitment to “look again” at data-hostile FOI provision

typewriter and index cards

On Friday evening the Government was contacted by the the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) regarding Section 17(4) of the new Freedom of Information Bill. The OIC had called me earlier that day to discuss the concerns I’d expressed in my posts earlier in the week. At the end of my conversation with the OIC, Mr. Stephen Rafferty, a senior investigator at the OIC acknowledged that the wording of Section 17(4) was open to multiple interpretations. He said he […]

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FOI Bill: The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Right To Reply

I told the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that if they would like to make a reply to my FOI Posts, I would publish it. You can read their response below. *** The FOI Act, like FOI Acts in other jurisdictions, provides for access to records which already exist and are held by public bodies consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy. The Act, similar to Acts in other jurisdictions, does not provide that in the […]

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Truths you weren’t meant to know: Why the FOI Bill is as it is.

rays of light

In case there is any doubt about why Section 17 (4) of the newly published Freedom of Information Bill was inserted, let us compare an enquiry from data journalist Gavin Sheridan with the new restrictions. Gavin asked the Department of the Taoiseach for: “A ‘datadump’, (ie a copy/export of) the Oracle financial management system in use by the Department covering the time period for 2010.” He also requested that the information be given to him in a new file of […]

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The Irish State wishes to uninvent computers with new FOI Bill

FOI

The new Freedom of Information Bill was published on the 24th July. Mark Coughlan pointed out on twitter that Section 17 of the Act seemed to be a little… shall we say, backward? Section 17 (4) (b) in particular contains the following restriction on how much freedom you can expect your information to have. , the FOI body shall take reasonable steps to search for and extract the records to which the request relates, having due regard to the steps […]

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