Irish Examiner View: Public spending demands public oversight

Keeping public payments secret.
Irish Examiner View: Public spending demands public oversight
Secretary General for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt. The top civil servant queried why pensions paid to former taoisigh, ministers, and presidents could not be published and asked why he had not been consulted about the decision to stop releasing the details. Picture: Oireachtas TV/PA Wire.
Secretary General for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt. The top civil servant queried why pensions paid to former taoisigh, ministers, and presidents could not be published and asked why he had not been consulted about the decision to stop releasing the details. Picture: Oireachtas TV/PA Wire.

Keeping public payments secret.

A lot of the online post-election ‘analysis’ was as poisoned as it was inaccurate. This, in a society almost run on secrecy, seems an inevitable own goal.

However, the potential of social media as a conduit for distrust and propaganda has changed the rules. Validated information has become a bulwark against those who undermine to destroy.

It is likely to become ever more important in defending our democracy.

In that context, the decision by the Information Commissioner that details of the pensions of former taoisigh, ministers, and presidents would not be made available under Freedom of Information (FOI) law is disappointing.

That information had been, for many years, published as a matter of routine. Those figures, and all payments to all politicians and all grades of civil servants should be automatically published every year.

Public spending demands public oversight. Denying that facilitates the online warriors and gives undue weight to the Dickensian idea, and shield, of income privacy.

Transparency is no longer an idea, it is a powerful way to sustain our societies. It is not voyeurism, it is necessary.

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