[Sinn Fein]

20th July 1999

`Exemption rather than Freedom'

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice Bairbre de Brún has described the British government's Freedom of Information Bill as ``an exemption from Information Bill rather than a freedom Bill''

Sinn Fein today formally responded to the draft Freedom of Information legislation being proposed by the British Government.

``While Sinn Fein has long called for Freedom of Information legislation we believe that this proposed Bill is so seriously flawed that we could not support its extention to the North of Ireland. Indeed, one could be tempted to call it the Exemption from Information Bill given that the grounds for refusing information are far wider than those permitted in other countries. We are particular concerned that it will make public access to information from any of the British armed forces including the RUC virtually impossible. This will therefore increase the non-accountability of such wrongdoing and perversion of the course of justice.

Sinn Fein believes that the freedom of information should cover all public and British government appointed bodies as well as the deliberations of all local government bodies. Unfortunately this Bill falls short of what public expectations of such a Bill should be in terms of openness and accountability.

We believe that the terms of this legislation run contrary to the promised new spirit of openness as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and may directly contradict parts of the Act which puts the Agreement into law.

Sinn Fein has stated the case very clearly to the British government that any Freedom of Information legislation should at the very minimum conform to the standards adopted in the Irish and New Zealand legislation.'' ENDS

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