Get 20M+ Full-Text Papers For Less Than $1.50/day. Start a 14-Day Trial for You or Your Team.

Learn More →

Book Review: Freedom of Information 2nd Edition , edited by Maeve McDonagh. (Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2006)

Book Review: Freedom of Information 2nd Edition , edited by Maeve McDonagh. (Thomson Round Hall,... european public law Maeve McDonagh (ed.), Freedom of Information 2nd Edition (Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2006) lxxii + 615 pp., ISBN 9781858004372, hb 280 The first edition of Freedom of Information Law (FOI) established Maeve McDonagh as a major commentator on the subject of freedom of information. The second edition, after a span of eight years, allows her to return to the development of that subject in Ireland. The book provides a detailed analysis of FOI decisions by the Information Commissioner and the courts. The author cites the benefits of the experience of the FOI legislation in Ireland. These include the granting of 75% of requests (120,000 applications in the relevant period) in full, many of which would have been denied in the absence of legislation, the `extensive and effective' use of the legislation by journalists for public interest purposes, the development of more coherent decision-making within government departments and the benefits of a statutory duty to give reasons for decisions. The UK analogues lack such a duty to give reasons for decisions generally and have an uncertain remit within publication schemes and are present within duties to respond to requests under the FOI legislation (section 17) in the UK. But there have been adverse developments to the Irish legislation. Charges have been introduced under the FOI (Amendment) Act both in relation to applications and appeals and these have `impacted significantly on the use of the Act'. Attempts to introduce revised charging scales in the UK have, for the time-being, been shelved. A legacy of secrecy in government (and the original framework for secrecy was very much British inspired) has led to doubts over the extent of openness and transparency in Ireland and government members heavily influenced an Oireachtas Joint Committee report retaining the secrecy or non-disclosure clauses in existing legislation. The Information Commissioner had recommended that such provisions should be trumped by the FOI Act. The author states that her book concentrates on the Irish legal framework but chapter one provides an international analysis and dimension to FOI which is both wide-ranging and perceptive. This includes a discussion of FOI as a human right and the case law from the European Court of Human Rights, national examples of FOI and the EU legislation introduced in 2001 as well as the Directive on Environmental information following the Aarhus Convention, and the OSPAR Convention. Freedom of Information is becoming ­ has become ­ a global concern. Access to information is also dealt with in the final chapter of the book. The chapters that follow give a full, clear and analytical account of the Irish legislation and its amendments. These cover Publication of Government Information, Records Management and Reasons for Administrative Decisions; Access; Exemptions; specific exemptions such as Meetings of the Government; Deliberations of Public Bodies; Functions and Negotiations of Public Bodies and so on. The chapters on personal information reveal the comparative simplicity of the Irish approach when compared with that in the UK where there is a complex Book Reviews interrelationship between the UK FOIA and the Data Protection Act. In Ireland there is a constitutional right to privacy but such a right is not absolute and did not protect from disclosure the expenses' claims of members of the Oireachtas. A further chapter covers the relationship between the Irish FOIA and the Data Protection legislation. The author's assessment is that the latter does not trump the former as might initially appear to be the case in the UK. The UK Information Commissioner and Tribunal have been grappling with these UK provisions. A brief review such as this does not do justice the richness and detail of Professor McDonagh's book. The book is well written, clear and precise. Argument is perceptive and relevant. It is a treatise on the Irish law but it draws freely and constructively on comparative materials to assist in the analysis. It is a significant and welcome addition to the legal literature on FOI. Patrick Birkinshaw Professor of Public Law Director of the Institute of European Public Law The University of Hull http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png European Public Law Kluwer Law International

Book Review: Freedom of Information 2nd Edition , edited by Maeve McDonagh. (Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2006)

European Public Law , Volume 14 (4) – Dec 1, 2008

Loading next page...
 
/lp/kluwer-law-international/book-review-freedom-of-information-2nd-edition-edited-by-maeve-Uj6CKBwfz2
Publisher
Kluwer Law International
Copyright
Copyright © Kluwer Law International
ISSN
1354-3725
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

european public law Maeve McDonagh (ed.), Freedom of Information 2nd Edition (Thomson Round Hall, Dublin, 2006) lxxii + 615 pp., ISBN 9781858004372, hb 280 The first edition of Freedom of Information Law (FOI) established Maeve McDonagh as a major commentator on the subject of freedom of information. The second edition, after a span of eight years, allows her to return to the development of that subject in Ireland. The book provides a detailed analysis of FOI decisions by the Information Commissioner and the courts. The author cites the benefits of the experience of the FOI legislation in Ireland. These include the granting of 75% of requests (120,000 applications in the relevant period) in full, many of which would have been denied in the absence of legislation, the `extensive and effective' use of the legislation by journalists for public interest purposes, the development of more coherent decision-making within government departments and the benefits of a statutory duty to give reasons for decisions. The UK analogues lack such a duty to give reasons for decisions generally and have an uncertain remit within publication schemes and are present within duties to respond to requests under the FOI legislation (section 17) in the UK. But there have been adverse developments to the Irish legislation. Charges have been introduced under the FOI (Amendment) Act both in relation to applications and appeals and these have `impacted significantly on the use of the Act'. Attempts to introduce revised charging scales in the UK have, for the time-being, been shelved. A legacy of secrecy in government (and the original framework for secrecy was very much British inspired) has led to doubts over the extent of openness and transparency in Ireland and government members heavily influenced an Oireachtas Joint Committee report retaining the secrecy or non-disclosure clauses in existing legislation. The Information Commissioner had recommended that such provisions should be trumped by the FOI Act. The author states that her book concentrates on the Irish legal framework but chapter one provides an international analysis and dimension to FOI which is both wide-ranging and perceptive. This includes a discussion of FOI as a human right and the case law from the European Court of Human Rights, national examples of FOI and the EU legislation introduced in 2001 as well as the Directive on Environmental information following the Aarhus Convention, and the OSPAR Convention. Freedom of Information is becoming ­ has become ­ a global concern. Access to information is also dealt with in the final chapter of the book. The chapters that follow give a full, clear and analytical account of the Irish legislation and its amendments. These cover Publication of Government Information, Records Management and Reasons for Administrative Decisions; Access; Exemptions; specific exemptions such as Meetings of the Government; Deliberations of Public Bodies; Functions and Negotiations of Public Bodies and so on. The chapters on personal information reveal the comparative simplicity of the Irish approach when compared with that in the UK where there is a complex Book Reviews interrelationship between the UK FOIA and the Data Protection Act. In Ireland there is a constitutional right to privacy but such a right is not absolute and did not protect from disclosure the expenses' claims of members of the Oireachtas. A further chapter covers the relationship between the Irish FOIA and the Data Protection legislation. The author's assessment is that the latter does not trump the former as might initially appear to be the case in the UK. The UK Information Commissioner and Tribunal have been grappling with these UK provisions. A brief review such as this does not do justice the richness and detail of Professor McDonagh's book. The book is well written, clear and precise. Argument is perceptive and relevant. It is a treatise on the Irish law but it draws freely and constructively on comparative materials to assist in the analysis. It is a significant and welcome addition to the legal literature on FOI. Patrick Birkinshaw Professor of Public Law Director of the Institute of European Public Law The University of Hull

Journal

European Public LawKluwer Law International

Published: Dec 1, 2008

There are no references for this article.