Ryanair deal - first Information Tribunal hearing to be held in Northern Ireland

An attempt by Derry City Council to keep its secret deal with Ryanair out of the High Court will be heard at a tribunal in October. The Information Commissioner has confirmed the two-day hearing - following a Freedom of Information request by the North West Telegraph - will be held in the city's courthouse on October 17 and 18.

In a landmark ruling, Derry City Council, owner of the loss-making City of Derry Airport, was ordered in February to fully disclose its controversial financial arrangements with Ryanair to the North West Telegraph. Meanwhile, the low-cost airline announced today that net profits for the three months to the end of June soared 80% to €115.7m (£79m) after rising fares and passenger numbers boosted business.

The decision to call a tribunal followed a year-long investigation by the commissioner's office, after the request under the Freedom of Information Act in January last year. The FOI request urged the commissioner to consider whether the public had a right to know the terms and conditions of the contract between Derry's council and Ryanair.

Householders in Derry pay among the highest rates in Northern Ireland, with some of the money used to pay for the annual subvention of the airport at Eglinton, to the tune of around £1.5m. Derry City Council is now appealing to the Information Tribunal against the Information Commissioner's ruling.

It claims the information is commercially sensitive and disclosure would prejudice the economic interests of the North West, the airport and Ryanair. The Information Commissioner is expected to reject such arguments. Both parties will be represented by lawyers at what will be the first Information Tribunal ever to sit in Northern Ireland.

Tribunal to decide on council's Ryanair deal (Belfast Telegraph, 1 August 2006)