The following letter, written by Progressive Democrats councillor Victor Boyhan, was published in the Irish Times on Tuesday 1 April 2003.
Boyhan was pleading with the then PD/Fianna Fail government not to subvert the Freedom of Information Act. The issue would, he said, put the party to the test.
The party, as we know, failed that test just as the current parties are failing the test when it comes to transparency and accountability.
Freedom of Information
Further to your recent articles on the Freedom of Information Act I am reminded of Milton’s words in his Areopagitica (1644).
Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely, according to conscience, above all liberty.
Surely, Milton’s words after nearly 360 years are as relevant today as they were then. Excessive secrecy damages the democratic process and leads to poor decision-making because ministers and bureaucrats become isolated from the real world.
Secrecy means that both individuals and pressure groups are unable to get information that would enable them to challenge what has been decided by Government.
This Government must not curtail the freedom of information process. An opening up of the process will lead to an improvement both in the way the decisions are taken and in the quality of these decisions.
Openness, transparency, accountability and active engagement with the citizens are core principles of the Progressive Democrats and the current issue regarding freedom of information will put the party to the test.
Cllr. Victor Boyhan