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FOI reveals Department of Business ignored DPER’s concerns about whistleblower legislation – Maurice Quinlivan TD

22 August, 2018 - by Maurice Quinlivan TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Jobs & Enterprise Maurice Quinlivan TD has said that it is extremely concerning that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has seemingly ignored concerns raised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the impact the recently transposed Trade Secrets Directive could have on whistleblower legislation here.

Speaking today, Teachta Quinlivan said;

“Sinn Féin has serious concerns about the effect the Trade Secrets Directive could have on the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. This Directive was transposed by Minister Heather Humphreys in June by way of Statutory Instrument.

“The Directive will amend section 5(7) of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and will require a worker to show that they acted for the ‘purpose of protecting the general public interest’ in making a protected disclosure where the worker is alleged by their employer to have ‘used, acquired or disclosed’ a trade secret in making the disclosure.

“One of the key features of the PDA is that it does not require a whistleblower to show they were motivated by anything other than a reasonable belief that wrongdoing was taking place.

“Transparency International Ireland has said that the amendment could be used by employers and trade-secrets holders to insert gagging clauses in contracts and to intimidate would-be whistleblowers with the threat of legal action and character-assassination where whistleblowers seek to use information to make a disclosure using information that the employer decides is a ‘trade secret’.

“I raised Sinn Féin’s concerns with Minister Humphreys before the summer recess, and asked her if she would bring this matter before the Dáil for debate and scrutiny, due to the serious consequences this Directive could have on Irish whistleblower legislation.

"Unfortunately the Minister ignored my call, and it now seems she also ignored the concerns of a government department.

“Correspondence I received under the Freedom of Information Act which shows that DPER raised concerns directly with the Department of Business about the effect the Trade Secrets Directive could have on the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, a year before the Directive was transposed.

“In an email sent in June 2017 an official from the Department said ‘DPER have serious reservations about the implications of this Directive for the Protected Disclosures Act. We’ve referred it to the AG’s office for advice but they have informed us this evening that they will be unable to do so in advance of today’s deadline.

“The schedule of the FOI request also indicates this advice from the Attorney General was submitted as part of the consultation, but the Department refused to release this submission citing section 42(f) of the FOI Act.

“It is extremely concerning that the Minister ignored DPERs concerns and Minister Humphreys needs to clarify why she ignored this advice and what steps she will take to ensure the Protected Disclosures Act is not adversely affected by this. DPER’s submission to the public consultation must also be published immediately to shed further light on this issue.”

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