Regulatory Agencies

You are currently browsing the archive for the Regulatory Agencies category.

My question to the Data Protection Commissioner was very simple – do citizens have the right to know the names of politicians who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Act.

The reply from the Data Commissioner is equally clear:

No, citizens do not have any such right. In other words, when a politician breaks the law it becomes a state secret.

The Commissioner’s full reply:

Dear Mr Sheridan

I refer to your recent email to this Office.

In relation to your query,

There is no basis for publishing names of individuals fined in such circumstances.

The introduction of legislation providing for such publication is not a matter for this Office.

Informing you of political parties who have been fined rather than specific individuals would be a matter for the Council to reply to (as it refers to
organisations, not specific individuals) but we are not aware that they
would be under any obligation to release that information.

Yours Sincerely

Share this:

Dear…

Thank you for responding to my query regarding the publication by local authorities of persons fined for not removing election posters.

Unfortunately, your reply has not been very helpful.

Your reply consists of two parts:

Name and Shame Schemes and the situation regarding private individuals.

The Name and Shame Schemes seem to refer to criminal convictions and the Courts Service.

I fail to see the relevance of these schemes to the withholding of names by local authorities of political parties/politicians/candidates who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Acts.

I’m also puzzled by your reference to private individuals when the context of the issue is public elections and public election campaign activities.

Surely a citizen is not acting in a private capacity when involved in an election campaign? Surely when a citizen, who has publicly registered as a candidate for election, publicly breaks the Litter Pollution Acts, they are not acting as private citizens.

It hardly needs to be stated that political parties are, by definition, public entities. It is therefore difficult to understand how local authorities can refuse to divulge the names of such parties that have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts.

I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions with absolute clarity.

Under Data Protection legislation can local authorities refuse to divulge the names of political parties who have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts?

Under Data Protection legislation can local authorities refuse to divulge the names of elected officials who have been fined for breach of the Litter Pollution Acts?

Fingal County Council have provided the following interpretation of the Data Protection Act in relation to this issue:

Fingal County Council has obligations under the Data Protection Acts 1998-2003 in relation to protecting the privacy of individuals. Specifically unauthorised disclosure of personal data is prohibited. Section 2 of the Act (as amended) prohibits such disclosure.

Is Fingal County Council correct in this interpretation given that the issues involved are entirely public matters?

I strongly believe that this important issue needs to be clarified to a level where there is no room for doubt or fudge.

Either citizens have the right to be informed of the identities of politicians and political parties who are in breach of the Litter Pollution Acts or they do not have that right.

As custodian and operator of the Data Protection Acts your decisions on this issue could have serious consequences for the rights of citizens regarding access to information in respect of elected representatives and political parties.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

Share this:

Fingal County Council has responded to my second request (See first here) as to why the authority is keeping secret the names of candidates and political parties who have been fined for failing to remove election posters in the recent local and European elections.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

Further to your request to clarify this issue, I wish to advise that Fingal County Council has obligations under the Data Protection Acts 1998-2003 in relation to protecting the privacy of individuals.

Specifically unauthorised disclosure of personal data is prohibited. Section 2 of the Act (as amended) prohibits such disclosure.

I trust this information is helpful to you.

Kind regards,

I’m still puzzled as to how fines against public candidates and public political parties can be treated as a personal matter.

Share this:

Dublin local authorities have issued more than 90 fines to political candidates who failed to remove posters on time after the local and European elections last May (Irish Times).

But once again it has been decided that the great unwashed are not be told the names of politicians/parties who have broken the law.

Fingal and Dublin/Rathdown County Councils said they couldn’t release the names for ‘data protection reasons’.

Dublin City Council did not reveal figures either, haughtily decreeing that:

Enforcement activity will be reported to the Elected Members in due course.

I rang the Data Protection Commissioner’s office to ask were these local authorities permitted to keep such information secret and, if so, under what section of the Data Protection Act they were exercising their power.

I received an acknowledgement and a promise that an answer would be forthcoming within the next 15 working days.

I rang Fingal County Council with the same question and, as usual, I was told to put my query in writing.

I did and received the following reply:

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

I refer to your phone call today and subsequent email. Unfortunately I am not in a position to offer you legal advice in relation to this matter.

Best Regards

My reply:

Dear…

Clearly, you have misunderstood my request. I am not seeking legal advice in any manner or form.

I am merely requesting the relevant section of the Data Protection Act under which Fingal County Council is basing its decision to keep confidential the names of candidates and political parties who have been fined for failing to remove election posters in the recent local and European elections.

My request is specifically focused on the following quote in today’s Irish Times.

She (a spokeswoman for Fingal County Council) said details of the candidates or parties that received fines would not be made available for data protection reasons.

It is reasonable to assume that the spokesperson is aware of the relevant section of the Data Protection Act to which she is referring.

I simply want to know that particular section.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan

Share this:

Last April, religious militant and director of the Iona Institute David Quinn, delivered a lecture to fifth and sixth year students falsely informing them that the origin of the universe had nothing to do with science but was strictly a matter for religion/philosophy (See full article here).

There is an abundance of scientific evidence relating to the origin of the universe. Scientific discoveries such as background radiation, inflation and the recently discovered gravitational waves are all scientific facts supporting the idea that the origin of the universe is scientific.

In stark contrast, Mr. Quinn’s claim that the origin of the universe is a philosophical and religious one has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Despite centuries of philosophical and religious debate on the question of the origin of the universe not a single fact has been produced to confirm the myriad of speculative opinions emanating from that quarter.

What is really disturbing about this incident is the fact that Mr. Quinn and the Iona Institute appear to have unrestricted access to propagate what is effectively, religious propaganda to innocent students.

It is obvious from reading Mr. Quinn’s article that his lecture had nothing to do with genuine education, that it was not designed to inform students about the pros and cons in the debate between science and religion.

In addition to the lie concerning the origin of the universe Mr. Quinn’s lecture seems to have been nothing more than a vicious attack on New Atheism and in particular on Richard Dawkins.

Mr. Quinn regularly makes such attacks across various media outlets and, while rationally obnoxious, he is entitled to hold and express those views.

But what is not acceptable and what is deeply disturbing, is the apparent freedom extended to the Iona Institute to effectively intellectually abuse innocent schoolchildren.

I made a formal complaint on the matter to the Department of Education.

The response, while entirely predictable, was nevertheless shocking.

Effectively, the Department said – Nothing to do with us, it’s the responsibility of the boards of management and the patron of each school (See below for my formal complaint, reply from Dept. of Education and my response).

This is the same irresponsible response by the Dept/Government as that taken in the Louise O’Keeffe scandal.

Ms. O’Keeffe, who had been sexually abused by a teacher as a schoolgirl in the 1970s, lost her case for justice in the Irish High and Supreme Courts but finally found justice when the decision of the Irish courts was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

Although disgusting in the extreme it seems that this ‘legal arrangement’ is proving very useful to politicians and civil servants as a means of abdicating any responsibility whatsoever towards protecting children from abuse whether physical, sexual or intellectual.

Copy to:
Department of Education
Iona Institute
All political parties

Formal complaint:

10 April 2014

For attention of Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

This is a formal complaint regarding a lecture delivered by the director of the Iona Institute David Quinn to a group of fifth and sixth year students earlier this month.

Mr. Quinn wrote about his lecture in an article in the Irish Catholic newspaper of 3 April last. The title of the article, which is provided in full below, is:

The atheist’s act of faith

The question of the origin of the universe isn’t a scientific one at all, but a philosophical and religious one.

My complaint is as follows:

Mr. Quinn’s lecture is based entirely on a falsehood; namely that the origin of the universe is not a scientific one at all but rather a philosophical and religious one.

There is an abundance of scientific evidence relating to the origin of the universe. Scientific discoveries such as background radiation, inflation and the recently discovered gravitational waves are all factual events that give the lie to Mr. Quinn’s claim that the question of the origin of the universe is not scientific.

Furthermore, Mr. Quinn’s claim that the question of the origin of the universe is a philosophical and religious one has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Despite centuries of philosophical and religious debate on the question of the origin of the universe not a single fact has been produced to confirm the myriad of speculative opinions emanating from that quarter.

In effect, Mr. Quinn was permitted to encourage students to ignore established scientific facts regarding the origin of the universe and instead accept that his Christian god created the universe.

It is unacceptable and indeed disturbing that somebody with a very strong religious bias like Mr. Quinn would be granted apparent unrestricted access to students to promote a religious viewpoint based on a falsehood.

It is unacceptable and indeed disturbing that any outside influence would be permitted apparent unrestricted access to students to promote a particular view without the long established safeguards of independent/objective supervision and the right to hear an opposing argument.

According to legislation the Board of Management of schools are accountable to the patron and to the Minister. This complaint is addressed to the Minister in this context.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Response from Department of Education:

Dear Mr Sheridan

I refer to your letter addressed to the Minister for Education and Skills.

While this Department sets out the constitution of Boards of Management and rules of procedure it is not directly involved in the management of schools. Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. The schools Board of Management is accountable to the school Patron.

Accordingly, whereas the Department provides funding and policy direction for schools, the Department does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaint cases.

Religious Education is one of 33 Leaving Certificate subjects available to schools. The selection of text books and classroom resources to support the implementation of the curriculum is made by schools, rather than by the Department of Education and Skills or the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints relating to the administrative actions of a school recognised by the Department of Education and Skills, provided the complainant has firstly and fully followed the school’s complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the administrative actions of a school has, or may have, adversely affected the child. The office can be contacted at: Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1; tel. 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 865 6800 or email [email protected]

I hope the information that provided is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,

My response to the Department of Education

28 May 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

Your response to my formal complaint concerning a lecture delivered to fifth and six-year students by the director of the Iona Institute David Quinn is a disgrace for the following reasons.

One: Apart from issuing meaningless bureaucratic waffle, the decision to do nothing will almost certainly result in some degree of damage to innocent children.

After decades of horrific child abuse the very least we could expect of officialdom is to make some enquiries into the matter. Given the history of child abuse in Ireland it is highly likely that the Iona Institute is not the only organisation that enjoys unrestricted access to preach religious and other damaging propaganda to children.

Two: Your indifferent response is a further disturbing reflection of how unprofessional civil servants have become. Scandal after scandal, on an almost weekly basis, gives witness to this decay of professionalism right across all departments.

Three: Your response is an insult to my intelligence. It is an obvious fact that the Department of Education is intimately involved in every aspect of education across all levels. It is also a fact that if you wished, you could easily carry out an investigation into this matter.

That you chose not to thus placing children in potential danger is a disgrace on you and your profession.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan

Share this:

Congratulations to Leo Varadkar.

Riding on his trusty steed the young buck has stormed into the mid 1980s, looked around and immediately summed up the dire situation – I quote.

The Department of Justice is not fit for purpose, it is clear that big changes are required.

We need cultural change. You know, too much in Ireland, and it’s not just a Garda issue, we still have the culture of doing favours, the nod and the wink, the use of discretion and those types of things.

Oh Jesus, save me. I’m going weak at the knees to witness such incisive analysis, such vision, and such cutting edge assessment of what’s happening in our country.

Why, I ask, why did we have to wait so long for the chosen one, for our saviour?

And of course, it brings me back to the mid 1980s too.

The time I realised that the banking sector was robbing customers and the State with total impunity, they still are, bless them.

It was the time I realised that the criminal Haughey was corrupt and the principal carrier of the disease that would eventually infect every level of Irish society but in particular the political, administrative and financial sectors.

I wonder how long it will be before Leo arrives in the 21st century?

Who know, but when he does he’ll see, I’m sure, with equal clarity, that every government department is unfit for purpose, that civil servants and particularly senior civil servants no longer serve Ireland and its people but are loyal to the anti principles of arrogance, incompetence and corruption.

But most of all he will see that the disease of corruption that has infected our law enforcement and other regulatory agencies is carried deep within the system in which he lives – the body politic.

Share this:

I was delighted that the Sunday Times reported on my continuing efforts to bring Labour senator Denis Landy to account over his refusal to act on bribery allegations he made in July of last year.

Here’s the article in full. I’ll be coming back later with more comment.

By Mark Tighe

A Labour senator who claimed he was offered a bribe to miss a vote has refused to co-operate with a Seanad inquiry into the matter.

Last July, Denis Landy, a Tipperary based senator, told the Sunday Independent he had been offered flights and three night’s accommodation in New York if he missed a vote, and that the offer was made “in seriousness rather than jest.”

The senator said he turned down the offer, which he believed was an effort to defeat the Government on the abolition of the Seanad.

Landy has refused to elaborate on the identity of the ‘shadowy political figure’ who made the offer.

Anthony Sheridan, who runs the publicinquiry.eu blog, subsequently made a comlaint to the Gardai and the Seanad Committee on Members’ Interests about the bribe claim.

He complained Landy had failed to report the incident to the authorites or reveal who allegedly offered the bribe.

The Seanad Committee sent Mr. Sheridan the results of the investigation last month.

Deirdre Clune, the Fine Gael chair of the Committtee, said it had written to Landy last November and he responded on January 15 through a firm of solicitors asking for documentation about the complaint.

The Committee then asked Landy to attend but his solicitor replied that he did not wish to. After taking legal advice the Comittee decided to discontinue its investigation. It noted a complaint had also been filed with the Gardai.

Clune’s letter to Sheridan asked him to be aware of Section 35 of the Ethics in Public Office Act, which says disclosing information obtained under the Act is an offence.

I interpret this as a not very subtle warning to me to make sure the Committee’s findings are not passed on to the media.” Sheridan said.

“Senator Landy’s refusal to co-operate with the Committee is contemptible. In a functional democracy he would be answering questions in a court of law.”

He said it was “risible” that the Committee could conclude “without any apparent embarrassment, that it does not have the power to investigate an alleged breach of its code by one of its members.

He said the Labour Party’s response to the incident was astonishing.

The party has previously said the incident is a matter for the senator himself. Last week its spokesman did not return calls. Landy said he had “no comment.”

After he made the bribe claim, four senators called on Landy to explain himself.

David Norris told the Seanad he wanted the truth.

The corruption must be exposed and if it was the last thing the House did, it would be a service to the people of Ireland,” the independent senator said.

Maurice Cummins, the Fine Gael leader in the Seanad, also called for Landy to report the matter to the Gardai.

I hope this matter, if not already reported, will be reported immediately by senator Landy.”

Share this:

My complaint to the Information Ombudsman regarding the refusal of the Department of Justice to answer a question becomes ever more bizarre.

I wrote recently about correspondence I received from the Ombudsman which effectively stated that the office had no power to investigate the Dept. of Justice.

Here’s the relevant and bizarre comment.

This Office is precluded from examining the issues you have raised in your online complaint. This exclusion includes complaints about the failure of the Department to reply to your correspondence.

This, of course, is ridiculous. If the Ombudsman cannot investigate a refusal by a Government department to answer a simple question then it has no power to do anything.

My reply:

Dear…

I would be greateful if you could answer the following questions.

What precise piece of legislation precludes your office from examining my complaint?

What precise piece of legislation precludes your office from investigating the refusal of the Department to reply to my correspondence?

Your sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

I received no reply to this correspondence so I phoned the Ombudsman’s office yesterday and spoke with the official dealing with my complaint.

The official claimed that she thought I was asking the Ombudsman to deal with the content of my question to the Dept. of Justice rather than the refusal of the Dept. to answer the question.

I pointed out to her that this explanation was contrary to her previous correspondence in which she clearly stated that the Ombudsman does not have the power to examine the Dept’s refusal to answer my question.

She promised to get back to me soonest.

And so, on it goes.

Share this:

What do corruption expert Elaine Byrne and the Anglo trial judge have in common?

Both of them are utterly clueless about the reality of how things are done in our corrupt state.

Byrne tells us that our poor white-collar crime laws must be overhauled.

Despite writing an enormous tome on the subject of corruption she remains blissfully unaware that it is the State itself that is corrupt.

It is the State that ensures that those who inhabit the Golden Circle are protected from the laws that are rigorously enforced against ordinary citizens.

She seems blissfully unaware that the State will never, ever act against white-collar crime because the State and the white-collar fraternity are joined at the hip; they are both members of the same corrupt club.

The evidence for this fact is overwhelming and is outlined in great detail in her book.

Judge Martin Nolan seems to be similarly clueless of the connection between white-collar crime and the corrupt political/administrative system that (mis) governs the country.

We can see this from his comments.

I am totally surprised that the regulator did not give some warning to Anglo Irish Bank.

It seems to me incredible that the regulator did not take advice from other state agencies. I find it incredible that red lights didn’t go off in the office.

Like Ms. Byrne he seems to be totally unaware that the so-called Financial Regulator/Central Bank does not regulate at all when it comes to white-collar crime – ever.

I don’t mean light touch regulation; I mean zilch, zero, Nada regulation when it comes to crime within the Golden Circle.

To be genuinely surprised by the behaviour of the so-called Financial Regulator judge Nolan would have to be completely unaware of the decades long failure of the various so-called Financial Regulators to act against white-collar criminals.

And perhaps that is the case, perhaps he is so unaware.

Copy to:
Elaine Byrne
Financial Regulator

Share this:

On 4 March last I phoned the office of the Minister for Justice to find out the names of the Gardai who, we are told, were disciplined for their part in the penalty points scandal.

The Department refused to answer what is a very simple, very straightforward question.

On 15 April last I submitted a formal complaint to the Information Ombudsman on the matter.

Yesterday, April 25, I received the following disturbing reply from the Information Ombudsman.

More on this later…

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I refer to your recent complaint to this Office in connection with the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Ombudsman may investigate complaints against Government Departments and Offices, Local Authorities, the Health Service Executive, bodies within the remit of the Disability Act, 2005 and a number of additional bodies since 01 May 2013.

However, this Office is precluded from examining the issues you have raised in your online complaint. This exclusion includes complaints about the failure of the Department to reply to your correspondence.

If however, you give me your consent to do so, I can refer your correspondence directly to the Department for consideration, following which your case will be closed in this Office and no further action will be taken.

If you are happy for this Office to forward your complaint directly to the Department, please reply to this correspondence by no later than 2 May 2014.

Yours sincerely…

Share this:

« Older entries