Paisley calls for restrictions of FOI laws

Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley is coming under fire after threatening to curtail freedom of information rights in Northern Ireland.

Mr Paisley claimed in the Assembly that legislation designed to promote openness was being used "by lazy journalists who will not do any work". And he predicted that "reform" of the provisions will have to be introduced.

Mr Paisley's outburst came just four days after an FoI disclosure to the Belfast Telegraph exposed controversial lobbying by him on the Giant's Causeway visitor centre issue.

Mr Paisley and his Stormont Executive colleagues do not have the power to alter this legislation, as it applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. To restrict its provisions, they would have to either lobby Westminster for action or table new legislation in the Assembly.

Mr Paisley said: "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."

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