Departments’ FOI refusal highlights lack of transparency on EU-US Trade Deal – Carthy
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has strongly criticised the Department of Agriculture for its refusal to provide details of correspondence between its officials and European institutions in respect of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The Midlands North West representative confirmed he would be appealing a decision by the department to deny a FOI request.
“The response from the Department of Agriculture to the Freedom of Information request from my office seeking details of correspondence between the Department and European Officials in respect of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) raises serious questions.
“The refusal of the Department to provide even one document under the request, citing the fact that trade negotiations are exempt from Freedom of Information requests is, in my opinion, an attempt by the Department to stonewall a legitimate query. It follows a previous refusal by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation to similarly deny disclosure of the Irish government's interaction with the commission with regards TTIP.
“The fact is, while there are exemptions for trade negotiations under the Freedom of Information legislation, these exemptions were put in place presupposing that it would be the government actually negotiating on behalf of Ireland. However, this Government is not a party to TTIP negotiations, which are currently being negotiated by the European Commission on our behalf as a result of terms contained in the Lisbon Treaty.
“Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has repeatedly asserted that his Department is doing all that it can to ensure Ireland’s interests are protected during the course of the negotiations.
“Should this be the case one would imagine that the Department would be pleased to have an opportunity to reassure the public of their efforts by releasing the evidence?
“The fact that government departments seem content to hide behind legislation is very troubling and raises serious questions as to the accountability and transparency of trade negotiations. It is remarkably similar to the position adopted by the European Commission who have attempted to hide as much detail of these negotiations as possible from EU citizens.
“The fact of the matter is that this proposed trade deal presents a very real and documented threat to Ireland’s interests, particularly in the area of Agriculture and the Irish people deserve to know what steps this Government are taking to protect their interests.
"I intend to appeal the decisions of both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Enterprise and Sinn Féin will continue to campaign to ensure that a bad TTIP deal is not accepted by the Irish government.”