There are days when Ireland is a dispiriting place. Consider the following three seemingly separate issues. The HSE report into the life and death of TF. Niamh Brennan’s still under wraps report on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. And the latest delay in the Moriarty Tribunal. They have something in common: legal sensitivities are being invoked to prevent the public from knowing what exactly went on in these cases.
With TF, who died in 2002 and the report therein completed 18 months ago, somehow there were still legal complications releasing the report. The Attorney General is apparently still looking at the DDDA report before it can be released, notwithstanding Deirdre de Burca’s explosive hints about what is in there. And into its 2nd decade, the Moriarty Tribunal is still circling around the core facts of the case, and Michael Lowry’s questions to Brian Cowen yesterday gave us just a glimpse of the intensive legal manoeuvres that still surround the effort to find facts in the telecom licence case — with everyone lawyered up at state expense from the start.
In short, we’ve arrived at a situation where the apparent purpose of our legal system is to prevent or egregiously delay disclosure, and in doing so, impede broader public accountability. We’re into multiple election cycles past the original events in some of the above cases, and people still don’t know what actually happened — all in the name of legal sensitivities.
So we’re at a stage where “legal issues” have become a veto over provision of information, when some balancing of individual rights and public right to know is appropriate. And even if one thinks that the American approach of facts in the public domain quickly goes too far to the other extreme, there must still be middle ground between that approach and the current situation in Ireland.
One other thing on TF. As Barry Andrews’ flustered reaction shows, the government doesn’t perform well without its talking points — which in this case would have noted that she died in 2002, report done in 2008, so it’s old news and all the deficiencies are being corrected, nothing to see here, move along folks. But caught on the hop in this case, they now have to explain why there appear to be more cases like TF with reports on the shelf gathering dust.
Anyone for a children’s rights referendum?