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Posts tagged ‘Freedom of information legislation’

Nama appeals ruling on freedom of information

The Irish Times reports today on the stuff that happened in the High Court yesterday (though references to Freedom of Information are confusing, the case is not concerned with the FOI Act, but is about access to information generally).

full article at source: http://thestory.ie/

The case will get underway again this morning but I wanted to make a couple of observations on what happened yesterday.

First, Brian Murray SC (representing NAMA) repeatedly emphasised that if my and the Commissioner’s reading of the legislation was correct, it would have (in suitably dark tones) bring “a whole swathe” of bodies under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regime. He even listed bodies “like the Central Bank” which could be subject to such onerous requests. (The Central Bank is in fact already under the AIE regime), or, horror of horrors, bodies in the semi-State sector (CIE, Bord Gais and the ESB are already in fact covered by the AIE regime) or even the DPP (which may fall under the judicial bodies exemption), but even if it did, imagine a public body like the DPP having to answer AIE requests? Terrible stuff.

Much of the argument centered on what “includes” or “ambiguous” means and how the legislation should be interpreted. Niamh Hyland, for the Commissioner, used mine and Fred’s logical construction that public authority means X and includes Y, where X is the list of bodies in a) to c) and Y is the list of bodies in (i) to (vii) and that the legislation should be interpreted as the Commissioner outlined in her decision.

Banking Elites Stole $1.2 Trillion Thanks to the FED

DB Briefs: Banking Elites Stole $1.2 Trillion Thanks to the FED / Is Ben Bernanke Insane? / Biden Tells China “You Are Safe”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 – by Staff Report

Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion from the FED

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke‘s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages. … according to a Bloomberg News compilation of data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, months of litigation and an act of Congress. “These are all whopping numbers,” said Robert Litan, a former Justice Department official who in the 1990s served on a commission probing the causes of the savings and loan crisis. “You’re talking about the aristocracy of American finance going down the tubes without the federal money.” – Bloomberg

full story at source:http://www.thedailybell.com/2835/DB-Briefs-Banking-Elites-Stole-12-Trillion-Thanks-to-the-FED-Is-Ben-Bernanke-Insane-Biden-Tells-China-You-Are-Safe

thestory’s.ie ongoing spat with NAMA Up-Date

Long time readers will recall that this blog has been having something of a legal disagreement with both the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), and more recently our own Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI). The saga has now been running for eight months, and looks set to continue for some time yet.

For new readers (and we see from our subscriber figures that there are many new readers) we should perhaps recall how this legal battle commenced. Back in February, realising that NAMA does not come under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation – because our Minister for Finance decided not to prescribe it – we instead turned to that other arm of right to information legislation: the Environmental Information Regulations, or EIR for short.

We sent a request for information to NAMA, which was promptly refused on the basis that NAMA did not consider itself to be a public authority for the purposes of those regulations (SI 133/2007). We disagreed, citing that the Regulations stated that a body “established by or under statute” (and also that the board was appointed by the Minister) was a public authority, and therefore NAMA was a public authority. In disagreeing, we sought an internal review from NAMA. NAMA complied, and their internal review agreed with their original decision, that NAMA was not a public authority. We then appealed the matter to the OCEI, a sort of sister office to the Information Commissioner, and also headed by Emily O’Reilly. We also added a further submission to that appeal. Months passed, after which we received a letter from the OCEI – a preliminary decision which agreed with NAMA that it was not a public authority, and seeking our response. We then replied to that preliminary decision, as we were asked by the OCEI to do.

Last week we received a copy of NAMA’s reply to our response, and have been invited to make a further submission, in advance of a binding decision by the OCEI. This has actually become reasonably technical on a legal level – but we believe it is all really rather simple. The core argument (among two other significant arguments) is actually based on how one reads the legislation.

The legislation states:

“public authority” means, subject to sub-article (2)—

(a) government or other public administration, including public advisory

bodies, at national, regional or local level,

(b) any natural or legal person performing public administrative functions

under national law, including specific duties, activities or services in

relation to the environment, and

(c) any natural or legal person having public responsibilities or functions,

or providing public services, relating to the environment under the

control of a body or person falling within paragraph (a) or (b),

and includes—

(i) a Minister of the Government,

(ii) the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland,

(iii) a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act 2001

(No. 37 of 2001),

(iv) a harbour authority within the meaning of the Harbours Act 1946

(No. 9 of 1946),

(v) the Health Service Executive established under the Health Act 2004

(No. 42 of 2004),

(vi) a board or other body (but not including a company under the Com-

panies Acts) established by or under statute,

(vii) a company under the Companies Acts, in which all the shares are


(I) by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government,

(II) by directors appointed by a Minister of the Government,

(III) by a board or other body within the meaning of paragraph (vi), or

(IV) by a company to which subparagraph (I) or (II) applies, having

public administrative functions and responsibilities, and possessing environmental information;

Simple, right? One would think so, but NAMA doesn’t see it that way.

As far as NAMA is concerned, and indeed the preliminary view of the OCEI, it hinges mainly on what the words “and includes” mean. For us the legislation says:

a “public authority” means X and includes Y

where X represents the three types of public authority 3(1)(a)-(c) and Y is a list of bodies and categories of bodies i.e. 3(1)(i)-(vii). We believe NAMA clearly falls within the definition of 3(1)(vi). But NAMA reads parts (i) – (vii) as a subset of (a-c).

You could say we are at loggerheads on this one. And this actually goes beyond whether NAMA is or is not a public authority under this legislation. The disagreement here is so fundamental that it affects all other types of bodies that may or may not be public authorities under the same legislation. It is of fundamental importance to how this legislation is applied in the future, and could decide on how limited, or unlimited, the definition of public authorities becomes. Dozens of bodies could be included or excluded on the basis of how this legislation is interpreted.

source http://thestory.ie/2010/09/27/the-nama-saga-continues/


 The Story Blog is doing the citizens of Ireland proud and should be supported anyway you can as I believe this is an example of what the Freedom of Information Act was all about

Citizens have a right to know what is going on in State financed bodies and the very fact the NAMA is fighting this should sound alarm bells ringing all over the place.

It is vital for our democracy that they are subject to public scrutiny from ordinary citizens via FOI

Best Wishes

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