Jennifer Kavanagh 1st December 2010
As it currently stands, if someone wants to see the current cabinet papers on the IMF bailout they must wait until 2040. It’s almost like the last line in the Oliver Stone film “JFK” where the father tells the son to wait for 30 years to see if he was correct about his theory on the assaination of JFK.
In order to create a more open participatory democracy this system must require radical reform. Under the current system, as brought about in the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution, cabinet papers will only be released in the interests of the administration of justice or if there is an overriding public interest on foot of an application either by a tribunal, Minister on the authority of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Not much hope there for the average citizen who wishes to find out what the cabinet knew at what stage with regard to the bailout.
It could be argued that the current system of cabinet confidentiality perpetuates a culture of secrecy within the heart of government. There are conflicting ideals between the preservation of the order and authority of the state by restricting access to cabinet documents and the move towards opening up cabinet papers to citizens at a much earlier juncture than present.The main argument to open up the papers is that the current system prevents the citizen from accessing the policy making decisions of their government.
Swedish model allows for the citizen to access cabinet documents within a matter of days online. In Ireland, the system does not even give legal protection to the 30 year rule. Of course there is a radical difference between the polticial systems of both countrys. But could the reform of the cabinet confidentiality help in political reform in this country? By being open in the information what our cabinet discusses (of course within defined limits such as national security threats) we could involved the citizen in a more constructive manner with the policy debate that shape the country.