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Author Archives: Simon McGarr

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.

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

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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Supporting Guth Magazine

As readers will know, I think journalism- in the sense of actually telling readers things they don’t know but ought to- is both rare and excellent. I also think that most of the paths journalism used to come to us are now blocked by a poverty of resources and ideas. So that’s why I was delighted to support the Guth magazine project on crowdsourcing site indigogo. Gerard Cunningham (@faduda) and Jason Walsh are attempting to do something new (which is […]

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The Irish Times: Terms and Conditions apply

Conrad's writing desk by Ben Sutherland

The Irish Times claims ownership over all entries to their Legends of the Fall short story competition, win or lose.

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Digital Rights Ireland: Oral Submission to the European Court of Justice on the Data Retention Directive

McGarr Solicitors act for Digital Rights Ireland. The case of Digital Rights Ireland Limited, seeking to challenge Data Retention, reached a significant milestone on the 9th July 2013, when the case was heard before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The ECJ had received a referral from the Irish High Court, asking it to rule on the question of whether the Data Retention Directive (Directive 2006/24, to its friends) was compatible with basic EU laws. You can read the […]

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The Quirke Report: A critical analysis

When the Government announced that they were accepting and implementing the Quirke Report on a Payment scheme for women detained in Magdalen laundries, it was presented as the end of the matter. Minister Shatter said “It also marks the culmination of a process I initiated together with Minister of State Kathleen Lynch… It reflects my promise to the women who resided and worked in the Laundries to see justice done.” In reality, the first, and potentially most significant, matter to […]

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UN Commission on Human Rights Letter to Ireland questions the State’s response to the Magdalen Laundries scandal

Below is an extract from a letter from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the Irish government addressing the government’s responses to the Magdalen Laundries scandal. The letter is dated 22nd May 2013 and can be read in its entirety on the UN’s website at this link. Emphasis added. *** The Committee is pleased that the Government of Ireland commissioned a committee chaired by Senator McAleese to establish the facts of State involvement concerning […]

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Internet blocking in Ireland: Some quotes

There was a problem connecting to Twitter.   For all blocking methods circumvention by site operators and internet users is technically possible and would be relatively straightforward by determined users. –“Site Blocking” to reduce online copyright infringement, OFCOM Report,22nd May 2010 The law in this area is extremely complex, particularly since the European Court of Justice has given an important decision restricting the use of blocking in the meantime. That decision found that filtering would be impermissible if it undermined […]

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