Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle calls for FOI review to lead to more information, not less

Pringle calls for FOI review to lead to more information, not less

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has called on Government to ensure the current review of the Freedom of Information process results in more information being made public, not less.

Addressing the Dáil on Tuesday night, Deputy Pringle said: “What we should be looking at is more information.”

The deputy raised the issue with Minister Michael McGrath during parliamentary questions to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Pringle said: “Recently I’ve received some woefully inadequate responses from across a number of departments in your government.”

The deputy said: “I wrote to you about four weeks ago in general terms regarding a recent response to an FOI I had submitted to the Department of Housing around the mica issue and I still await a response from your office in relation to that. But as I said in my correspondence, I wasn’t looking for a generic response outlining the appeals process open to me and I don’t want that today, either.

“What I was doing was highlighting what I see is a negative institutional attitude taken by organisations of the State to the FOI process and more especially as well the FOI applicant, which I think is very important,” he said.

The deputy said the review should include how FOI officers deal with requests across different departments and bodies, “because it’s very mixed, as to the standard of response that you get and how requests are dealt with”.

Deputy Pringle said that while assessing costs, the review should ensure that the FOI process is not used to restrict access to information or to weaken already inadequate legislation as a cost-cutting measure.

The deputy said: “You mentioned that information should be available and should be widely available. And actually I think if departments publish everything they would have very little to do with FOI at all, because the information would be there and people would be able to get it if they wanted it.

“That’s ultimately what this is about,” Deputy Pringle said, saying that operating the FOI system as prohibitive can lead to public mistrust in the State.