I’m not sure if it required a Freedom of Information request, but the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has unearthed another letter from Ian Paisley’s office. This time he was writing, in 2005, urging Moyle Council not to sign up to the publicly funded project for a Visitors Centre at the Giants’ Causeway – a project that has now been suspended by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds. Meanwhile the Belfast Telegraph reports on the answer by the First minister, Ian Paisley again, to a question on reforming the FoI system in the Assembly yesterday, also picked up by Mark Devenport. So we’ve had “stupid” questions, the “tactics of Satan”, and now being “lazy”.. and here’s a reminder of what’s at stake.That FoI question and answer in full
Mr T Clarke: Does the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister have any plans to consider reform of FOI (Freedom of Information)?
The First Minister: There is no doubt that the evidence thus far already suggests that dealing with FOI requests takes up a considerable amount of staff time. On occasions, the requests are of a wide-ranging and detailed nature that requires many hours of research, and are sent in by lazy journalists, who will not do any work, but who think that we should pay them and give them the information that they want. That, inevitably, adds time and resource pressures onto the Departments.
If, in collating evidence on how the current procedures are working, the Departments discover that reform is needed — and I think they will — it will have to take place. The civil servants are not employed full-time to pursue the requests of enquiring minds. They are supposed to be serving the Departments that they are called upon to serve, and helping those who run those Departments.