Righttoknow.ie - A New Freedom of Information Initiative

Jack Maher

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Oct 11, 2010
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162
'Just came across this new initiative in support of freedom of information which I intend supporting as anything which sheds light in the shady rooms of Irish life and governance can only be beneficial to society as a whole.

From the website;

"With the 2016 Election over, we believe that people who did or indeed did not exercise their franchise may want to see if we can build something to keep an eye on the decisions of those who were just elected. All too often democracy is seen through the lens of voting, and not on the five years in between.
Back in 2009, TheStory.ie was founded as an experiment, by myself (Gavin Sheridan) and by journalist Mark Coughlan (who now works at RTE’s Primetime).
It was around the time of the MPs expenses scandal in the UK, and we took a specific interest in a few areas which were quite nascent at the time: Systematic FOI requests, FOI advocacy, data journalism, data vizualisation, document conversion, document management and legal appeals processes.
TheStory.ie ran on a simple principle – that with some good will, and some hard work, we could move the needle on improving the state of FOI, transparency and of investigative journalism in Ireland….
So here is the question: are you with us? We have an initial group of people – some of the best journalists we know to help us get started, and we will be adding to this list over the coming months. Gavin Sheridan and journalist Malachy Browne are directors, and journalists Ken Foxe, Karrie Kehoe and Tom Lyons are helping us get off the ground.

If we are completely transparent about how the funds are spent (and we certainly will be), and come to escalate our efforts, could we get to 1,000 people, or higher? By way of comparison 13,064 people gave their first preference to Michael Lowry in the recent election. Can a similar number of people “vote” for watchdogs?"

https://www.righttoknow.ie/
 


Finbar10

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Dec 3, 2008
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3,011
'Just came across this new initiative in support of freedom of information which I intend supporting as anything which sheds light in the shady rooms of Irish life and governance can only be beneficial to society as a whole.

From the website;

"With the 2016 Election over, we believe that people who did or indeed did not exercise their franchise may want to see if we can build something to keep an eye on the decisions of those who were just elected. All too often democracy is seen through the lens of voting, and not on the five years in between.
Back in 2009, TheStory.ie was founded as an experiment, by myself (Gavin Sheridan) and by journalist Mark Coughlan (who now works at RTE’s Primetime).
It was around the time of the MPs expenses scandal in the UK, and we took a specific interest in a few areas which were quite nascent at the time: Systematic FOI requests, FOI advocacy, data journalism, data vizualisation, document conversion, document management and legal appeals processes.
TheStory.ie ran on a simple principle – that with some good will, and some hard work, we could move the needle on improving the state of FOI, transparency and of investigative journalism in Ireland….
So here is the question: are you with us? We have an initial group of people – some of the best journalists we know to help us get started, and we will be adding to this list over the coming months. Gavin Sheridan and journalist Malachy Browne are directors, and journalists Ken Foxe, Karrie Kehoe and Tom Lyons are helping us get off the ground.

If we are completely transparent about how the funds are spent (and we certainly will be), and come to escalate our efforts, could we get to 1,000 people, or higher? By way of comparison 13,064 people gave their first preference to Michael Lowry in the recent election. Can a similar number of people “vote” for watchdogs?"

https://www.righttoknow.ie/
Thanks for posting this! I'd be very inclined to set send some money to this proposed initiative. We could definitely do with more proper independent investigative journalism in this country.

I have always thought the closure of the Chuck Feeney-funded "Centre for Public Inquiry" (CPI) was a great shame, after a report on Corrib Gas, and just as it was preparing a report on matters relating to the Dublin Docklands Authority (more on the CPI here). But it had annoyed too many important people. The choice of Frank Connolly to lead it was perhaps somewhat unfortunate; a fact which McDowell and Harney and Bertie Ahern had no compunctions in exploiting (McDowell's use of parliamentary privilege was quite disgraceful in this regard).

Somehow I doubt this new outfit will have either the deep pockets or perhaps even the desire to go anywhere so far. Nonetheless, I do think we need many more such investigative journalist/watchdog outfits of this type (particularly member/subscription-funded to help safeguard their independence).
 

Finbar10

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Dec 3, 2008
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IMO the OP deserves a bump. As the Panama Tapes makes clear we need more investigative journalism. Interesting, how theUS-based "Center for Public Integrity" is involved (I suspect Chuck Feeney's similarly-named shutdown "Centre for Public Inquiry" was meant to follow this general watchdog model).
 

gerhard dengler

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Feb 3, 2011
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I think that there is a demand for independent journalism in this country.

Sunday Business Post newspaper recently won the overall Irish Media award. It can't be beyond coincidence that the SBP has consistently been pushing it's role as an independent reporting vehicle.

I'm happy to support righttoknow.ie.
 

storybud1

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Oct 25, 2011
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6,531
We simply do not have the journalists in this Country to stand alone as no-one in power would dare talk to a real investigative journo as we are too small of a Country.

I believe we need a small unit of Eliot Ness type of specialists, IT experts, Tax Accountants, Detectives that remain anonymous and only report to the Supreme Court, the Garda Commisioner and Chief of Staff in the Army. The Supreme Court should be able to issue warrants, the Garda/Army technical support and the main party politicians kept in the Dark as much as possible.

Oversight would be by a select group of cross party TDs that never actually meet the team only a spokesperson. A nice couple of busts every now and again plus the threat that the corrupt guys have no protection and their phones can be tapped at any time should help keep them on their toes.

Just a thought, journos are not very good in a small Country in the long term, they get a couple of scoops and then nobody will talk to them ever again. We need teeth, we need modern tech and a free reign to go after the boyos.
 

johnny365

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Oct 21, 2007
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14,129
We badly need independent and objective journalism, immigration is going to be one of the biggest issues if not the biggest issue in Europe and in Ireland in the next few years. Yet our media in general and our national broadcaster have proven incapable of providing a balanced debate on this issue.
 

eoghanacht

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I wish them luck.
 

im axeled

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We simply do not have the journalists in this Country to stand alone as no-one in power would dare talk to a real investigative journo as we are too small of a Country.

I believe we need a small unit of Eliot Ness type of specialists, IT experts, Tax Accountants, Detectives that remain anonymous and only report to the Supreme Court, the Garda Commisioner and Chief of Staff in the Army. The Supreme Court should be able to issue warrants, the Garda/Army technical support and the main party politicians kept in the Dark as much as possible.

Oversight would be by a select group of cross party TDs that never actually meet the team only a spokesperson. A nice couple of busts every now and again plus the threat that the corrupt guys have no protection and their phones can be tapped at any time should help keep them on their toes.

Just a thought, journos are not very good in a small Country in the long term, they get a couple of scoops and then nobody will talk to them ever again. We need teeth, we need modern tech and a free reign to go after the boyos.
we were getting them buckshee, but da sleaze and his pd minister for justice gave them the bird
 

Bleu Poppy

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Apr 1, 2010
Messages
4,485
We simply do not have the journalists in this Country to stand alone as no-one in power would dare talk to a real investigative journo as we are too small of a Country.

I believe we need a small unit of Eliot Ness type of specialists, IT experts, Tax Accountants, Detectives that remain anonymous and only report to the Supreme Court, the Garda Commisioner and Chief of Staff in the Army. The Supreme Court should be able to issue warrants, the Garda/Army technical support and the main party politicians kept in the Dark as much as possible.

Oversight would be by a select group of cross party TDs that never actually meet the team only a spokesperson. A nice couple of busts every now and again plus the threat that the corrupt guys have no protection and their phones can be tapped at any time should help keep them on their toes.

Just a thought, journos are not very good in a small Country in the long term, they get a couple of scoops and then nobody will talk to them ever again. We need teeth, we need modern tech and a free reign to go after the boyos.
If the Supreme Court becomes the place of first resort when seeking a warrant, to which court can an appeal be made if the warrant was faulty or if those executing it overstep their lawful authority?
 

Bleu Poppy

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I think they are worth a punt. Will sign up to support them.
 

GDPR

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So long as they remain objective, but experience says that very rarely happens, the headline culture gains a life of its own, irrespective of the facts.
 

Peppermint

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So long as they remain objective, but experience says that very rarely happens, the headline culture gains a life of its own, irrespective of the facts.
Does your idea of objective mean don't ever question FF?

My personal pet hate is our money being spent via numerous public bodies, who won't reveal why monies were spent on various contracts due to 'commercial sensitivities' ! We just have too trust the right thing was done!
 

GDPR

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Does your idea of objective mean don't ever question FF?
As I've said to you before, that idea exists only in your own head. I've made must be nearly 50,000 posts on this site and you won't find one of them where I say anyone shouldn't question the policies or actions of any party. If I have something to say in their defence to reasonable points or to the nutters, I say it and that's as far as I go.

My personal pet hate is our money being spent via numerous public bodies, who won't reveal why monies were spent on various contracts due to 'commercial sensitivities' ! We just have too trust the right thing was done!
My problem with it is as I said that the pursuit of the headline, any headline, becomes an end it itself for the journalists.

No project is ever going to be perfect and if you look hard enough you will find some waste or mistakes somewhere, the larger the project, the more you will find and it can very quickly become much more expensive in terms of time lost and actual expense trying to make that perfect but generally unobtainable result anyway. Now add in a team of headline seeking zealot journalists and you will very soon end up with those involved with public projects spending more time and money covering their arse rather than doing the job we are paying them to do.

It's a balance and it can be difficult to find, but it's a balance the journalists have no interest in finding and therein may lie your problem.
 

Finbar10

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Dec 3, 2008
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It was very easy to set up a small annual subscription for this via stripe on their website RightToKnow.ie.

These are the same people that are behind TheStory.ie. They have already done some great work over the past few years shining light into some dark corners of Irish life (particularly via some clever use of Freedom of Information legislation). So IMO they are well worth supporting. To quote from their website:

1) NAMA were defeated in the Supreme Court in 2015 on an issue directly related to its transparency and accountability, based on a request we sent in February 2010, and on lengthy submissions made by us (with the enormous work of lawyer Fred Logue advising pro bono). NAMA also lost two cases in the High Court, one of which was solely based on our direct submissions to the court.
2) The “Trichet Letters” to Brian Lenihan were ultimately released by the ECB following a three-year long appeals process initiated and pursued by us, via the ECB and the EU Ombudsman. We also were first to publish the letter Ireland sent formally seeking a bailout.
3) We were the first to obtain large datasets under FOI, starting with the expenses database of the Department of Tourism, followed by multiple expenses and expenditure databases. These databases contain line item details in the billion of euros, never before seen in publicly available data. Others have since replicated these techniques.
4) We pursued other appeals via the Information Commissioner – achieving results on the definition of personal information, and on the definition of environmental information.
5) We vigorously argued against FOI fees, in particular the upfront €15 fee. We made submissions to the Oireachtas committee during the drafting of the FOI Bill 2014, and rang the alarm when we noticed the Government trying to increase fees via a Committee Stage amendment. The Government later removed the upfront fee altogether, an important step in the right direction.
6) We scanned and published legacy reports and investigations into malfeasance and corruption, including the Beef Tribunal report, which had up to then never been available online.
 

james toney

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Dec 9, 2009
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Freedom of Information has been one of the great democratising forces in Irish society.

Ireland had since independence remained a fiercely secretive state and the introduction of the first FOI Act in 1997 was an attempt (in the famous slogan of the time) at “letting the light in”.

The new legislation effectively made all public records public.

But – and there is always a but in Ireland – it came with exemptions, and lots of them.

These exemptions were meant to be, again using the vocabulary of the time, simply yield signs, rather than stop signs.

'Paschal Donohoe’s department found no records of him being lobbied by eight junior ministers to hike their expenses – even though a meeting took place.'

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform lobbying for increased travel payments took place in November 2018.

Fine Gael and the department can not be trusted.....as the electorate well know by now.

 

james toney

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Dec 9, 2009
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The slow death of transparency and information in Ireland.
This Information about office-holder pensions was once routinely published but now refused under FOI.

The Journal's investigative platform Noteworthy had sought access to the information via the Freedom of Information Act last year, but this request was refused by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

 

james toney

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Dec 9, 2009
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Those on the big pensions, expenses,and large pay offs will like the latest erosion of transparency.

 


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