Tourism body could have kept CEO email

Fáilte Ireland was under no obligation to keep records of its former CEO’s emails after he left the company, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said.

However, the Department of Tourism has refused to say whether it believes the tourism authority acted appropriately by deleting all of Shaun Quinn’s emails after he left his position of CEO of Fáilte Ireland in December 2016.

Yesterday, the Irish Examiner revealed that there are no records of Mr Quinn’s emails around the time Donald Trump contacted then tourism Minister Leo Varadkar about a proposed wind farm in Clare in 2014.

Last month, during the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC, Mr Varadkar revealed that Mr Trump had called him in February 2014 to raise his concerns about the proposed wind farm, which was subject to a planning application for a site near Mr Trump’s hotel.

Mr Varadkar relayed Mr Trump’s concerns to Fáilte Ireland via an email to Mr Quinn, who was CEO until December 2016.

The Taoiseach released this email last month in response to opposition criticism that he had acted improperly in making representations on behalf of Mr Trump.

However, while this paper submitted a Freedom of Information request to Fáilte Ireland seeking all records relating to Mr Varadkar’s request, the documents did not contain any emails, letters, or memos written by Mr Quinn.

“Shaun Quinn completed his tenure as CEO of Fáilte Ireland in December 2016. During the second quarter of 2017, his dormant email account was disposed of,” said a spokeswoman.

It is operating procedure within Fáilte Ireland that all dormant accounts within the organisation are deleted and removed within three to six months of an employee’s departure. All primary records are held in the relevant areas of responsibility within the organisation.

Responsibility for the Freedom of Information Act lies with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. However, a spokesperson said the legislation does not compel bodies to retain documentation.

“The FOI Act 2014 does not include any obligations in terms of keeping records for periods of time,” said the spokesperson.

While the National Archives Act legislates for the retention of some records, a spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht said; “Fáilte Ireland is not subject to the National Archives Act and does not have obligations under the Act.”

This newspaper submitted queries to the Department of Tourism both by phone and in writing yesterday morning, asking if it issues guidelines to bodies under its remit on the retention of records and if it believes Fáilte Ireland acted appropriately in deleting Mr Quinn’s emails.

A department spokesperson said data retention policies are matters for agencies themselves.

The documents Fáilte Ireland released to this newspaper reveal that the tourism authority had made observations on the wind farm, and commissioned a planning consultancy to produce a report on the proposal prior to Mr Varadkar’s call with Mr Trump in February 2014.

The documents also reveal, however, that, on February 25, 2014 — the day after Mr Varadkar had emailed Mr Quinn — Fáilte Ireland commissioned the same consultants to again assess the impact of the wind farm.

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