FoI in Northern Ireland: Paisley under attack for comments in favour of restricting FoI

The Belfast Telegraph is to challenge leading Stormont politicians to spell out their position on freedom of information.

The Assembly parties will be asked if they support First Minister Ian Paisley's claim that restrictions in the openness legislation are needed. The DUP leader last week claimed that the Freedom of Information Act was being used by "lazy journalists who will not do any work" (
Freedom of information debated - Belfast Telegraph, 9 October 2007). And he suggested restrictions on FOI will be needed because civil servants are spending too much time answering queries from "enquiring minds".

Mr Paisley's comments came just four days after the newspaper had used FOI to reveal controversial lobbying by the DUP leader in support of would-be Giant's Causeway centre developer Seymour Sweeney.

It was shown that Mr Paisley had erroneously claimed in a letter to the Heritage Lottery Fund that the businessman's centre plans had the support of world heritage body Unesco.

The Belfast Telegraph has extensively used the Freedom of Information Act since it took effect in January 2005.

Stories brought to light as a result of the legislation include details of a secret Derry City Airport subsidy deal for Ryanair, the revelation that Ulster judges are still being transported across the border by private jet based on 20-year-old security advice, and hospitality invites being accepted from big business by senior civil servants.

'Information' challenge to Ulster politicians (Belfast Telegraph, 18 October 2007)

NUJ blasts Paisley over 'disturbing' FOI remarks (Belfast Telegraph, 18 October 2007)

Is something troubling you, First Minister? Paisley lauds open government and now wants revise freedom of information access (Belfast Telegraph, 10 October 2007)