Breaking news from the Irish Times on the FOI debate in the Dail this evening:
Proposed changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act shows the Government is smug, arrogant and dishonest, Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, told the Dáil this evening. But the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, said the amendments were not a fundamental change in the public's right to access information.
While the ministers responsible for the proposed changes, Mr Charlie McCreevy and Mr Tom Parlon, were in Cheltenham, the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, was forced to defend the proposals, which he said could increase Government accountability.
But the angry political reaction to the proposals increased today when Fine Gael leader Mr Enda Kenny revealed that the Information Commissioner, Mr Kevin Murphy, whose job is to adjudicate on disputes over FOI requests, had not been consulted about the changes.
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The SAGE-ie folks (the sys-admins guild, Ireland) held a public meeting tonight to explain some of the technical issues that might arise out of the government's proposals for data retention. I'm afraid I missed it -- this is deadline night for me in the Times, and I couldn't get away -- but look forward to hearing the details of the discussion. There are just so many issues surounding this proposal -- the damaged business environment, the worrisome shift in Ireland's developing pro-privacy climate enshrined in the 2000 e-commerce act, the privacy violations, the shocking secrecy with which the government propsed *mandatory* retention without telling us, our elected representatives, or the judiciary. The current government is so flippant towards its own people that two key ministers have bolted off to attend the races in Cheltenham rather than guide their own MISguided and controversial bill, limiting the scope of Ireland's ground-breaking Freedom of Information legislation, through the houses of parliamanent. You can't get much more filled with contempt for the electorate than that.
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Extraordinary. The conservative London Times publishes this article on Bush Sr criticising the actions of his own son towards Iraq in a public speech:
THE first President Bush has told his son that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if a war with Iraq were not backed by international unity.
Drawing on his own experiences before and after the 1991 Gulf War, Mr Bush Sr said that the brief flowering of hope for Arab-Israeli relations a decade ago would never have happened if America had ignored the will of the United Nations.
He also urged the President to resist his tendency to bear grudges, advising his son to bridge the rift between the United States, France and Germany.
“You’ve got to reach out to the other person. You’ve got to convince them that long-term friendship should trump short-term adversity,” he said.
The former President’s comments reflect unease among the Bush family and its entourage at the way that George W. Bush is ignoring international opinion and overriding the institutions that his father sought to uphold. Mr Bush Sr is a former US Ambassador to the UN and comes from a family steeped in multi-lateralist traditions.
Although not addressed to his son in person, the message, in a speech at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was unmistakeable. Mr Bush Sr even came close to conceding that opponents of his son’s case against President Saddam Hussein, who he himself is on record as loathing, have legitimate cause for concern. [more here (free reg. required)]
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