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Ken Foxe @kenfoxe
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Thread: Dept of Justice considered appealing to the High Court after being told they would have to ask former minister Frances Fitzgerald to search her private email addresses for correspondence with Terry Prone & the Communications Clinic.
This is a submission from Deputy Secretary General Oonagh McPhillips to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. It was suggested appealing this might not be wise considering the discovery of in excess of 100 emails the Department had originally said did not exist:
Submission says that special advisers to @FitzgeraldFrncs were asked if they held any records that might be relevant to the request. "They indicated there were no such records," even though one of them was in regular contact with Terry Prone seeking PR and speech advice:
Documents reveal how a similar request from Fianna Fáil had also been refused on the basis that "no records" existed. Submission also says an email was discovered that may have been of relevance to the Charleton Tribunal. It later turned out tribunal already had it:
The evolution of an apology: Department of Justice originally planned something pretty far-reaching saying they had "fallen short" in their obligations under FOI. Said it was a matter of "some regret" but this letter never issued. More on that later:
Second draft of the apology, language already dramatically toned down. An "unusual set of circumstances" are now being blamed for failure to discover the 100+ emails between the minister's office and Terry Prone
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan was kept constantly briefed on the latest developments in the Frances Fitzgerald/Terry Prone saga:
Frances Fitzgerald said she had no difficulty in responding to the request for further records in her private email. However, she did say some of the records involved related to internal Fine Gael business and were "confidential and commercially sensitive"
And another update for Minister Charlie Flanagan:
And a final update for Minister Charlie Flanagan. The number of records discovered has now gone from the original zero all the way up to 185 (plus 3 from the minister). He's told that some of the records will not be released and would be exempted under FOI:
And the actual apology that issued in the end. Very different in scope to what was originally proposed:
Part 1: "Lines to take" if anybody was to come asking how a Department could say zero records exist when in fact there were regular communications between a minister's office and Terry Prone:
Part 2: "Lines to take" - the records related to "political services" which Department officials were not aware of. A new "transparency unit" is also to be created to deal with requests for information as a result of this controversy, and others:
Frances Fitzgerald was also given a copy of all the records that were being released. She still has not made any comment on any of this as far as I know:
All records obtained via @RightToKnowIE. Please support us so we can pursue this type of work and also important cases like this one:…
You can also read more on those documents and the Department of Justice plans for a new "transparency unit" in today's @IrishMailSunday
Last point: this stuff is actually making a difference. Department of Justice's handling of FOI requests has improved dramatically over last few months, and directly because of this issue. Credit to them for that and let's hope it continues.
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