Tasc discussion papers on FOI

TASC, a left-leaning think tank, have published two discussion papers by Dr. Nat O’Connor which are of particular relevance to political reform.

The Role of Access to Information in Ireland’s Democracy


An Economic Argument for Stronger Freedom of Information Laws in Ireland. 

The papers are part of a project on Public Information, which will restate the case for strong laws to enforce the public’s right to know what government and public bodies are doing.

4 thoughts on “Tasc discussion papers on FOI

  1. The real wory of course is that we need the political system to be changed from the inside, but those on the inside benefit most from preventing real reform.

    No party offer reform of the scale and depth we need as they can’t intellectually understand the need for it because they are the cause of that need. Eg Fine Gael issues a wishy washy paper on reform but lacks the guts to committ to real and deep reform but the wishy washy reform paper is literally the only alternative plan on offer.

    I think denial is a stronger emotion than even love or hate. The Irish establishment are in full on denial mode about the fact they have to be replaced before a renewal can be begun.

    I also think the Irish public are also deep in denial about their role in giving these people in the establishment the positions of power they have and continuing to give them that position despite the evidence staring them in the face they those people are unsuitable, for example how else can it explained why people vote for the likes of O’Dea or Beverly Flynn or Ahern or Lowry or the Healy Raes or O’Donoghues of the world to name a few.

    It can’t be that people don’t understand the link between a vote for those sort of people and the mess the country is in due to bad politics infecting every pillar of society. Because they prefer to remain in denial than face up to their role in putting these people there again and again.

    I don’t see a shred of evidence that any party offers more than maybe 15% of the list of reform that is required. So do people not bother to vote or pick the best of a bad choice and who would that be? If Fianna Fáil is not the answer anymore why should that mean Fine Gael is or Labour? But after them there’s no alternative left?


    Free FOI covering every single government department and quango and a ban on post it notes would do more to reform the public service than any amount of consultant reports but no political party would have the guts to implement the sort of FOI in Ireland that Sweden has.

    I think it will take another 4 or 5 generations to get past the abuses of the first century of independence.

  2. Thanks for this set of papers from Tasc. I had not really thought
    of the economic argument but of the principles involved in ensuring
    FOI which in recent EU reports was reiterated as essential to good

    The economic argument made by Lenihan conveniently skimmed over
    Governmental responsibility to ensure the channels of information
    remain open and neatly avoids the point that the Government is in
    the role of stewardship not absolute control of information.

    I particularly love point #31 btw.

    I am not a fan of Mc Creevy but the three things he did which were
    most memorable have had lasting positive and negative impacts:

    (i) I am glad we have an Ombudsman for children #positive
    (ii) FOI (billing and delays #deeply negative and anti-democratic
    (iii) De-centralisation #pile of crap

    Our government operates on their departmental sites an ‘Open-government’
    system (cf The Dept of the Taoiseach) :


    BUT it only gives access under PSI which necessarily controls the
    level of information, so to a simple soul like me , it appears that
    we operate PSI but restrict certain information through fee-gathering.
    This amounts to *allowancing* only certain infos into the public domain,
    whilst causing others to be subject to huge fees >

    imposing severe restrictions on FOI stymies debate. Everyone should
    really be aware of the positive effect of #31 in this piece from Tasc :
    The e-voting debacle and how FOI ameliorated the situation by exposing
    the exorbitant costs to us all – despite the evident embarassment caused to
    Martin Cullen TD


  3. Great to see these two new papers.

    As some readers will realise, this is something I have raised in this forum


    and other fora when the the FF-PD government limited the scope of FoI in 2003 ie. letters published in the Sunday Business Post 16March2003 and Sunday Independent 23March2003.

    That said, am I alone in finding that the TASC format does not make for eacy reading or printing?

  4. @Donal O’B,

    I, too, welcome these papers and Nat O’Connor deserves much thanks. Some effort should be made to confront the political parties to get their commitment to the recommendations advanced. However, it appears, important and all as it is, that the need for increased female political representation seems to have dominated debate on this site. I fear that, without reforms in the system of democratic governance – in particular those advanced in these papers – changing the gender balance in public representation will have little impact.

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