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Freedom of information debated

By Noel McAdam

A revamp of how Stormont deals with Freedom of Information (FoI) requests is on the cards, it emerged yesterday.

And First Minister Ian Paisley indicated he believed a review of how the requests are handled is needed.

The DUP leader argued that too many civil servants are spending too much time with FoI questions, some of them from "lazy journalists".

Responding to DUP South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke, Mr Paisley said: "If it transpires that reform is needed, and I think it will, then that reform will take place."

He said questions were often wide-ranging, requiring considerable time to answer, which could be better spent in serving the departments which civil servants are working for.

His statement came just three days after an FoI request from the Belfast Telegraph revealed Mr Paisley's letter to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which erroneously claimed that developer Seymour Sweeney's Giants Causeway scheme had UNESCO backing.

The SDLP's Declan O'Loan (North Antrim) attempted to raise the issue yesterday, but he was ruled out of order by Speaker William Hay, who said the issue bore no direct relation to the question on Freedom of Information requests.

? In a rare debate on a foreign issue, MLAs yesterday united to demand that economic sanctions be imposed to end the bloodshed in Burma.

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