We’re great fans of the words ‘FREE’ and ‘ZERO’ here at the Zero Waste Alliance. We believe public information access should have ZERO cost where it relates to public interest items. So we are cautiously welcoming the Irish Government’s announcement that non-personal FOI (Freedom of Information) fees of €15 are to be scrapped.
What price for Freedom of information?
The Freedom of Information system , far from being a burden on public services should be seen as a key watchdog tool for the concerned public- those citizens with concern for the highest standards in high places, and that should be us all. We pay for it in the end of the day through taxes and the myriad of levies. There are many examples where this has served us well and we just need to recall the recent revelations around Tuam child/infant deaths. Catherine Corless, a tireless researcher used the Freedom of Information requests to dig into the records and reveal the story in it’s gory details.
There are many information items to be looked into regarding the granting of Planning Permissions to Waste Incinerators in Ireland, especially where An Bord Pleanala Inspector’s reports are overturned and we expect to explore these issues with the new lower cost basis of information retrieval.
The model being proposed by the Open Government Partnership must succeed if we are to benefit as a society and expose corruption or negligence within state bodies and elsewhere.
But we should not have to request much of the Information that affects us all, e.g Aarhus protocol related environmental information. If the government and civil service simply engage openly with the public and publish public interest material in a timely manner then the FOI system will become irrelevant.
This will save the state huge amounts of time and money and also for it’s Citizens. We will have a more open and higher quality public sector which will blow away the cobwebs and breathe new life into the government -citizen relationship.