The Government has said it is “considering” its refusal to disclose payments to lawyers in the €14bn Apple appeal after its stance has been “completely undermined”.
As reported by the Irish Examiner, both the offices of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Information Commissioner have cast considerable doubt over the department's decision to withhold details of who it has paid because of 2018 Europe-wide data protection laws, known as GDPR.
Both offices pointed to instances, post the introduction of GDPR, where details of similar payments have been fully disclosed.
In response to queries, the department has said it “notes the comments related to the release of fee details in respect of the Apple case” contained in the Irish Examiner story.
It said that information in respect of individual Counsel’s fees which included the breakdown of payments made to individual Counsel was previously provided in parliamentary questions seeking information on fees paid in the Apple State aid case. These details were provided in the interest of transparency and accountability.
Advice was sought from the Office of the Attorney General on the implications of GDPR on the issuing of information in relation to payments made to individuals. “Taking account of that advice, the Department is now constrained from releasing information relating to particular fees paid to individual Counsel,” the department said.
However, the statement concluded by saying: “The Department is considering the matter further.”
It has been claimed the Department of Finance's refusal to disclose payments to lawyers involved in the €14bn Apple appeal is to hide “double payments” to state employees, which are not allowed.
Labour TD Alan Kelly has been seeking details of payments to the lawyers acting on behalf of the State but has been refused because the department said it is precluded from doing so because of GDPR.
Mr Kelly, speaking today, said he is demanding answers from the Department given the public commentary from both Commissions.
"There is no basis for this and I have tabled a series of parliamentary questions in order to seek the answers. This information should be in the public domain," he said.
Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath has said any spending of public funds must be transparent and open.
“Where public money is involved, the public has a right to know who is benefitting from such payments,” he told the Irish Examiner.