Mary Coughlan’s talking points

Last month I sent the following Freedom of Information request:

FOI Unit
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2,

August 13, 2009

Request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003

Dear Sir/Madam,

In accordance with Section 7 of the above mentioned act, I wish to request access to the following records which I believe to be held by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (“the Department”):

1) The portfolio prepared by the Department in advance of Mary Coughlan (“the Minister”) becoming Enterprise Minister on May 7, 2008, in order to brief her on her new role.

2) All briefing notes prepared for the Minister for an interview on RTE Radio with Marian Finucane, in March 2009.

3) All correspondence between John McGuinness TD and the Minister between April 1, 2009 and May 15, 2009. By correspondence I am referring to all written communications such as email, letter, memo etc sent from Mr McGuinness to Ms Coughlan and from Ms Coughlan to Mr McGuinness or either of their respective offices.

My preferred form of access to these documents is in digital (PDF/doc) format.

If you decide to request further payment I would like to be provided with an itemised fees receipt outlining precisely why an additional cost is required.

Please find enclosed a cheque in the amount of €15 in respect of the fee for a request under the Acts. I look forward to hearing from you in the time period prescribed under the Acts.

Please contact me by email to discuss any problems which may occur with this request.

Call it a curiosity FOI. The portfolio in 1) was mentioned by Coughlan herself during the course of the interview. For some strange reason, it is not included or referred to in the reply. I will be following up 1) this week.

I am *always* curious to know what briefing notes are prepared for ministers in advance of radio interviews. After listening to her interview with Marian Finucane in March, I was curious to see what had been prepared. A recent falling out with Mr McGuinness also formed part of the request, but not much resulted from that, as I more or less expected. They don’t write down much these days.

But Ms Coughlan’s “speaking points” are interesting. I will be seeking more of these in the coming weeks from other departments. It gives us an insight into what spin is being used by ministers, what are the rehearsed talking points, and might tell us just how much (or how little) ministers know what they are talking about.

Mary Coughlan FOI Including letter to John McGuinness and talking points for Marian Finucane interview. You can listen to that interview here (via realplayer).

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