[Sinn Fein]

28th February 2003

Ó Snodaigh slams Government double standard on access to information, calls for withdrawal of new FOI Act Amendment Bill

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called for the withdrawal of the newly-published Government Bill restricting access to information about the workings of government and governmental decision-making. He accused the Government of ``an appalling double standard'' for publishing this Bill in the same week it was revealed that the Cabinet have allowed for the amassing of private information on citizens without their knowledge for nearly a year. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

``We learned this week that Fianna Fáil and the PDs instituted a secret data retention regime nearly a year ago, despite the fact that legislative proposals on incorporating this EU Directive have never been published let alone debated. They feel they have the right to do this by executive and secret decision. The publication of today's bill shows that we can expect more of this to come. 

``At the same time they have increased the access of law enforcement agencies to private information about citizens, they want to restrict the citizen's right of access to information about the workings of government. This appalling double standard is typical of the kind of institutionalised arrogance that has set in with this Government. I regret that it doesn't surprise me in the least that they now feel both justified and safe in introducing a Bill that would allow them to govern in secret, and using their majority to ram it through over opposition objections and despite the implications for our fundamental rights as citizens.

``We need to increase access to information in the interests of Government transparency and accountability, not to restrict it even further. Sinn Fein will oppose this Bill, and I call on the Government to withdraw it without delay.'' ENDS

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