This administration, albeit in an earlier iteration, promised that openness, that active accountability would become a characteristic of our public life.
It was one of the campaign promises that led to Enda Kenny’s time as taoiseach and by extension, Leo Varadkar’s leadership. However, and unsurprisingly, that idea remains filed under “undelivered promises” and will remain so unless the culture of secrecy, so active in Government and the public service, is changed.
The opportunistic evasion has become a matter of conflict between the Department of Finance and the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and the Information Commissioner (IC).
The department has refused to detail barrister fees in the €14bn Apple tax appeal. It says the attorney general told it that to do so would be a breach of data protection legislation. This position has been refuted by the DPC and the IC.
The Public Accounts Committee has demanded it be reversed.
No matter how it’s dressed up, no matter what convenient niceities are brought into play, no matter what unintended potential for evasion a law might afford, this seems another example of the ballyhoo so beloved by the percentage professions and so corrosive to the idea of accountable government.
The fees are paid from the public purse and the public is entitled to know how its money is used.
To stymie that simple principle is unacceptable and dangerous. After all, what have they to hide? And whose side is the department on?