Belfast Telegraph

Right-to-know reform delay slammed

Ireland's transparency watchdog has challenged the delay in Government promises to overhaul right-to-know laws.

Emily O'Reilly, the information commissioner, said Fine Gael and Labour both "traded" on their vows to reform freedom of information (FOI) legislation when asking voters to elect them.

Almost a year-and-a-half into office, the coalition still has not reversed Fianna Fail's amendments in 2003 which placed major restrictions on the accountability laws, a key commitment in the programme for government.

"I'm still waiting," said Ms O'Reilly.

"I think at this stage, to use an awful cliche, they have talked the talk and now they need to walk the walk."

Ms O'Reilly said there would need to be serious questions asked and soul-searching within the coalition partners if the promised reform was not brought in by the end of this year.

"I think two years is adequate time for that to be done," she said.

The information commissioner said the amendment curtailing the laws, which give the public greater access to information held by public bodies, took little time to implement.

"The manner in which public bodies behave is very much dictated by the mood music at the top - and if they sense that a government is favourable towards FOI and see it as a good thing, then they will take their cue accordingly," she said.

"So really the acid test will be whether or not we get legislation this year - I have no reason to believe we are not going to get it - and whether it is as comprehensive as was promised in the programme for government."

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