The new Freedom of Information Bill is a step forward in many ways, but at present it is missing one opportunity.
The explicit exclusion of all semi-state authorities, including Coillte Teo and Bord na Mona is an irrational and backward-looking step, especially in the light of their inclusion under the the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations (SI 133 of 2007 as amended).
The commercially sensitive information held by these public authorities is well protected, and there is no reason to exclude bodies that have such major roles in our society. Coillte Teo, NAMA and Bord na Mona, for example, hold in trust huge swathes of the land mass of Ireland.
As you will be aware, the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations define public authorities as:
“public authority” means, subject to sub-article (2)—
(a) government or other public administration, including public advisory bodies, at national, regional or local level,
(b) any natural or legal person performing public administrative functions under national law, including specific duties, activities or services in relation to the environment, and
(c) any natural or legal person having public responsibilities or functions, or providing public services, relating to the environment under the control of a body or person falling within paragraph (a) or (b),
(vii) a company under the Companies Acts, in which all the shares are
(I) by or on behalf of a Minister of the Government,
(II) by directors appointed by a Minister of the Government,
(III) by a board or other body within the meaning of paragraph (vi), or
(IV) by a company to which subparagraph (I) or (II) applies, having public administrative functions and responsibilities, and possessing environmental information;
The Members of the Environmental Pillar would urge you to include this definition to the Freedom of Information Bill.
The Environmental Pillar