Right to Know launches new Patreon account as our latest information access case is heard in the High Court

Throughout this week, Right to Know will be in the High Court for an historic case seeking access to records from the Council of State.

It’s just our latest case as we seek to enhance the right of citizens to access information about how Ireland works.

We are also launching our new Patreon account to give our supporters a new way of contributing to our work.

With many Patreon accounts, different levels of support mean different levels of access.

With Right to Know, access will remain equal whether you support us or not as we pursue our goals of transparency through requesting information, publishing documents, and making appeals.

Since our small not-for-profit was launched five years ago, we have made thousands of requests for information and made dozens and dozens of appeals.

In the past year alone, these have been some of our achievements:

  • We won a case to make a wind farm operator subject to Access to Information on the Environment requests.
  • We published inspection reports from meat processing plants during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are also fighting to have their names disclosed.
  • Our complaint to the UN’s Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee on systematic delays in dealing with AIE requests was upheld. The government has now begun a public consultation process on how to improve the operation of those regulations.
  • We were the first to make available postal code-level data on Covid-19 infections and deaths as part of our efforts to secure greater transparency around coronavirus; not long after, the HSE began publishing more granular detail.
  • Our director Gavin Sheridan won a key case forcing public bodies to give detailed reasons for why information should not be disclosed in the eNet case.
  • We won a case on publication of a report by the Data Protection Commissioner on the use of CCTV by a local authority.
  • We have made available tens of thousands of pages of records on every issue imaginable, all of which you can read on our publishing website www.thestory.ie 

We can only do this work with your help. Even if you’re not in position to sign up for our Patreon subscription, you can still help by spreading the word about Right to Know to your family and friends.

Thanks for your continuing support!

Draft conclusions from Right To Know complaint over systematic delays in access to information on the environment requests are published

Two years ago, Right to Know travelled to Geneva for a hearing with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee on foot of a complaint we made in August 2016.

This related to long systematic delays in dealing with requests made by us – and others – under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations.

One such case was Right to Know director Gavin Sheridan’s long-standing efforts to have the National Asset Management Agency made subject to AIE requests.

The delays persisted and in many of our cases – including ones relating to Coillte, the Office of the President, the Council of State, the Celtic Roads Group, and a number of government departments – decisions were taking at least a year to be made.

In their draft conclusions, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee has found the following.

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It is important to say these are only draft conclusions, and it is open to both Right to Know and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information to make further observations.

You can read the report in full below:

Right to Know takes case over access to lobbying record from business group Ibec

A case taken by Right to Know opened in the High Court earlier this week.

The case concerns access to a submission made to the Department of Transport by the business group Ibec.

Our application had been refused by the Commissioner for Environmental Information on the basis that the record was not environmental information.

Right to Know believes it is. You can read more about it in this article from the Irish Examiner.

Right to Know wins case over access to fees paid as part of the Apple tax case

The Department of Finance has released full details of €8.4 million in payments to lawyers and consultancy firms involved in the Apple tax case.

The release came on foot of advice from the Attorney General and following an FOI request by Right to Know.

The Department ceased publishing details of these payments in April 2019 because of concerns they had that it was in breach of GDPR.

Following our request, the Department sought further legal advice with the Attorney General confirming the information could be published in the interests of transparency and accountability.

You can see the record on DocumentCloud.

Information Commissioner rules that release of pensions paid to former Ministers, Taoisigh, and Presidents would be “significant breach” of privacy

The Information Commissioner has decided that release of the individual details of pensions paid to former Ministers, Taoisigh, and Presidents would involve a “significant breach” of their privacy.

The details had been published as a matter of routine by the Department of Finance for many years.

However, they ceased this practice in 2016 believing it was no longer possible following the introduction of GDPR.

Right to Know sought the information under FOI, and appealed the case to the Information Commissioner.

The Office of the Information Commissioner upheld the decision however, resulting in a reversal of more than a decade of transparency surrounding these pension payments.

You can read the decision in full at the following link.