ECB claims its ‘space to think’ supersedes public interest

The ECB claims that maintaining its own “space to think”, is of more importance than citizens’ right to understand how it arrives at decisions that materially affect people’s quality of life.

In response to an appeal over the ECB’s refusalto release documents relating to the deal the Government struck on the Anglo Irish Bank promissory note, the bank explained that it believed its refusal to release the information was in the public’s own interest.

The president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, responded in writing, claiming that any disclosure could undermine the ECB’s ability to operate.

“The ECB considers that releasing these documents would undermine the possibility of the ECB’s staff freely submit uncensored advice to the ECB’s decision-making bodies, and that it would thus limit the ECB’s ‘space to think’.

“It is, therefore, in the public interest to protect the internal consultations and deliberations,” said Mr Draghi.

Despite the fact that the renegotiation of the promissory notes will have a long-term effect on Ireland’s budget and consequently on the financial prospects of all Irish citizens, Mr Draghi believes that there is nothing in the discussion documents that led to the liquidation of IBRC, the termination of 800 jobs in the bank and knock-on effect that is expected to impact another 30,000 jobs, that are of “public interest.”

“On the basis of the content of these documents, there is no overriding public interest which could justify their disclosure and it is not possible to grant partial access to them without undermining the interest protected,” he said.

University of Limerick head of journalism, Tom Felle, who recently held a conference to examine freedom of information legislation, said that the logic behind Mr Draghi’s was daft.

“When it comes to public money the public interest should always fall on the side of disclosure.

“This decision by the ECB is daft, suggesting there is ‘no riding public interest in their disclosure’ when probably the biggest debt deal in the history, not just of the State but of the EU has been agreed, beggars belief. The Irish public have a right to know,” he said.

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