3 April 2003 Edition

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Govt is gutting Freedom of Information Act

Speaking on the Freedom of Information Bill at the Select Committee on Finance and the Public Service in Leinster House on Tuesday, Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on the Minister for Finance to withdraw the legislation, which he said was a "major step backwards for this democracy". He said the bill, now at committee stage, should never have seen the light of day and accused the government of abusing its majority position in the Dáil and Seanad by forcing it through. "There has been no process of consultation, no proper review, no public debate which should have taken place and which should have involved the Joint Committee among many others.

"The point cannot be made strongly enough that the Freedom of Information Act is primarily a law that benefits individual citizens. Of course it also gives the media rights to information and that is welcome. But over 60% of FOI requests come from individual citizens. This Bill now curtails those rights."

"It demeans politics and it demeans the Oireachtas for the Act to be treated in this shoddy way. This Bill effectively guts the original Act. It also paves the way for legal challenges and all manner of litigation that will benefit only the more affluent sections of the legal profession. Far from freeing up government and removing alleged obstacles, it has the potential to tie government up in legal knots."

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