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'Information' challenge to Ulster politicians

By David Gordon

The Belfast Telegraph is to challenge leading Stormont politicians to spell out their position on freedom of information.

The Assembly parties will be asked if they support First Minister Ian Paisley's claim that restrictions in the openness legislation are needed.

Belfast Telegraph Deputy Editor Paul Connolly said: "We will be writing to each of the Ministers and party leaders, to find out if they share the views expressed by the First Minister last week.

"We will also be asking if any proposals to curtail freedom of information rights have been discussed at Executive level."

Mr Paisley's comments came just four days after this newspaper had used FOI to reveal controversial lobbying by the DUP leader in support of would-be Giant's Causeway centre developer Seymour Sweeney.

Above: The Belfast Telegraph has used the Freedom of Information Act for a number of investigations since it came into effect in January 2005

It was shown that Mr Paisley had erroneously claimed in a letter to the Heritage Lottery Fund that the businessman's centre plans had the support of world heritage body Unesco.

This newspaper has extensively used the Freedom of Information Act since it took effect in January 2005.

Stories we have brought to light as a result of the legislation include details of a secret Derry City Airport subsidy deal for Ryanair, the revelation that Ulster judges are still being transported across the border by private jet based on 20-year-old security advice, and hospitality invites being accepted from big business by senior civil servants.

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