Minister for Finance – Diary Oct 1998 to April 1999

When I requested the Taoiseach’s diary for the period between the introduction of the FOI Act and March 31 1999 – which can be viewed here – I made the same request to Finance. I have since received it and uploaded it to Scribd.

Minister for Finance (Charlie McCreevy) Diary April 21 1998 t0 September 31 1999 and October 1 1998 to March 31 1999.

It has been OCRd and can be searched by keyword using the document search field in the lower right hand corner of the Scribd box, alternatively you could download and use Ctrl+F to look for what you’re after.

Ireland's notification to the European Commission

I was interested in some FOI work that Deputy Joan Burton had been doing lately on Anglo Irish Bank, so I contacted her and asked for any documents or refusals she had received. She was kind enough to copy everything and post them down to me. I have now scanned and OCRd the documentation.

First up is Ireland’s notification to the European Commission surrounding the injection of €1.5bn of capital into the bank. It runs to over 50 pages and contains some curious stuff. Many of the handwritten notes are I believe by Deputy Burton herself, or her staff. But there are other curious oddities, some of which are highlighted.

Firstly the document appears to have been poorly redacted. There are strikethroughs throughout the document with notes afterwards such as “[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]”. What appears to have happened is that a draft of the document was released, rather than a redacted version. The draft contains the internal notes around what should or should not be redacted. One gem (and this is dated January 2008) is “Anglo Irish Bank is considered a fundamentally sound institution”. With a note beside saying it might be “commercially sensitive” to say so.

Not alone that, but further down it says (with a line through it)

The assessment by Merrill Lynch supports the position that Anglo Irish Bank is fundamentally sound.[Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]

Another gem which was marked for redaction, marking points arguing in favour of capital injection:

The assessment that there was a low likelihood that Anglo Irish Bank would be successful in raising additional equity from existing shareholders and new private investors Confidential – commercially sensitive][Department to confirm]

Also this very interesting paragraph around future planning:

As noted above, on account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially. However, given the envisaged future changes in the Bank’s business model and strategic direction under its restructuring plan, it is anticipated that in time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly [Confidential —commercially sensitive for Anglo Irish Bank] [Department to confirm]

Finally, there is this further reference to Anglo’s future:

On account of Anglo Irish Bank’s specific business model, which is specialised in commercial property lending and property development finance, not all of the elements of the agreed credit package will directly impact on Anglo Irish Bank, at least initially. However, given the requirement to prepare a restructuring plan within a six month period as part of the recapitalisation initiative, future changes in the business model and strategic direction of Anglo Irish Bank are likely to bring about a closer alignment between the lending activities of the Bank and the credit needs of the real economy. As a result it is anticipated that in-time further elements of the credit package will become applicable to Anglo Irish Bank accordingly. [Confidential – business secret] [Department to confirm].

Of course questions need to be asked. This document is dated January 8. The Government already had the PwC reports into Anglo and must have had some idea of the scale of the problems at the bank. Yet Merrill was still claiming Anglo was fundamentally sound just a week before the bank was nationalised. Not alone that, all references to the bank being fundamentally sound were marked for redaction.

There is one final section that sums up the entire sorry mess, my emphasis:

Anglo Irish Bank is a focused business bank with a private banking arm. The Bank provides business banking, treasury and wealth/management services. It is not a universal bank and its stated strategy is niche rather than broad market. Each of its customers deals directly with a dedicated relationship manager and a product specialist.

Yet in the same breath we are told the Anglo is of systemic importance. So which is it?

Ireland’s note to the Commission [PDF]

Ireland Note to the European Commission

Taoiseach's diary April 1998 to December 1999

I had reason to FOI the Taoiseach’s diary for the period between the FOI Act coming into effect (April 19th 1998) and December 1998 recently. It’s now up in case someone else has use for it too. It has been OCR’d – to search press ctrl+F and enter your term, then hit return.

Redactions marked ‘A’ are so because the department believes them to be “personal information” as defined in Section 28 of the FOI act. Entries marked ‘B’ relate to the Taoiseach’s private papers as a member of the Oireachtas. Regards ‘B’ redactions – the cover letter from the FOI officer states “Section 46 of the Act states, inter alia, that the Act does not apply to records relating to any of the private papers of a member of the Oireachtas and as such I consider that the Act does not apply to these entries.”

News stories from around that period include:

The OECD warning our economy may be overheating

“Overheating is the chief risk facing the Irish economy in the run-up to Economic and Monetary Union, the OECD warned in its latest economic outlook. It said signs of overheating were already evident, such as labour shortages in a number of skilled trades and a boom in housing and other asset prices.”

The Garda Commissioner appointing a team to investigate the tapping of the phones of George Lee and Charlie Bird

A decision being made on whether on not members of the public should charged for making an FOI request

The Government debating the merits of recommendations made in The Bacon Report

Local authorities in the greater Dublin area will be required by statute to ensure that their development plans comply with strategic guidelines for the region, according to the Minister for the Environment

John O’Donoghue, then minister for justice, denying he was attempting to shield holders of Ansbacher accounts

An angry Minister for Justice, Mr O’Donoghue, said he gravely resented any suggestion that the Government was in some way trying to shield any Ansbacher account holder. This was false and malicious.

The Minister was reacting to a claim by Mr John Connor (FG) that he intended to “hold in check at all costs” the powers of the Moriarty Tribunal in relation to the accounts.

Cabinet postponing setting up the Standards in Public Office Commission

Mary Banotti appearing before the Old Bailey

and lastly, Pee Flynn.

…though there may be nothing relevant in the document to any of the above.

Footnote: I’m sure someone will note that Bertie met the head of “The Ancient Order of Hibernians” on March 5th 1999. If ever there was a reason to polish up those tin-foil hats, lads… that is surely a secret society.

Seriously though, Bertie sure could open stuff.


Just some housekeeping items to keep readers informed.

From now on, and soon to be applied retrospectively, all FOI documents will be subject to an OCR process prior to upload to the internet. This means that the documents can be ‘read’ by Google bots, and added to the Google index. It also means large scale documents can be searched for keywords. We believe this will add greater transparency to the documents we put into the public domain. The software we will be using will be Abbyy Finereader.

This should also serve as a warning. All too often Departments and public bodies are choosing to release information in hard copy, despite the information in question being held digitally, and our requests including a preference for digital versions. Where we receive information in hard copy, it will be scanned, OCRd and uploaded to the internet. There will be no escaping the Google spiders that are coming.

Additionally, some of our recent requests have been rejected, citing numerous exemptions. Where we believe these rejections are without merit we will appeal. This is a costly and time consuming process, but we believe that in the long run such a policy will pay dividends. Up until now it has been traditional for the main drafters of FOI requests, journalists, to almost always accept and never appeal rejections (either through lack of time, lack of funds, unfamiliarity with the Act or a combination of any of the three). This will not be our policy.

Where we believe the Act is in our side, we will vigorously pursue appeals all the way to the Information Commissioner and/or the High Court. We believe this policy is to the benefit of everyone who submits FOI requests, to the media, and to the public at large.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has donated money to assist us with our requests and appeals. We hope that the relatively constant stream of results being put online (and the subsequent stories in the newspapers based on our FOIs) are reward enough for such donations. We believe greater transparency using the internet is change we can believe in.

TD/Senate expenses 2003/2004

Back in August we started the process of seeking all expenses records for all TDs and Senators from 1998 to 2008. We are seeking a complete representation, as oppose to previously FOId data, much of which does not cover complete calendar years. To that end we have submitted FOIs seeking this information, and now we have a complete record of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008. It is planned to share any data we receive with, for inclusion in individual TD and Senator profiles.

Unfortunately, our request for data from 2002 and 2001 was rejected by the Oireachtas, citing Section 10 (1) (c) of the Act. This refusal has been appealed and we should hear back this month on the results of that appeal.

For now, I will attach all data we received as is relating to the calendar years 2003 and 2004. 2003 is being made available in full for the first time, as the last few months of that year had not previously been FOId. For now I will post the documents as I received them from the Oireachtas. We will be gradually adapting all years into online spreadsheets.

Senator Expenses January to December 2003
Senator Misc Expenses Allowance January to December 2003

TD Expenses January to December 2003
TD Constituency Travel & Misc. Expenses January to December 2003

Senator Misc. Expenses January to December 2004

TD/Senator Payments January to December 2004
TD Exs & Constituency Travel January to December 2004

SIPOC and donations to Fianna Fail

Some background:

Earlier this year the Irish Examiner led with a story concerning corporate donations to Fianna Fail. Figures which were previously undisclosed were revealed. This was done through Company Registration Office files, whereby companies are obliged under the Companies Acts to declare donations on their annual accounts.

Following this story, Anthony over at made a complaint to SIPOC (they are not a pro-active body and will only act where a complain is made). The complaint took months to process and about four weeks ago SIPOC found that no breach had taken place, but gave no further detail. He was advised to FOI the results of the investigation.

These were released late last week and I have uploaded them.

The FOI contains the exchange of letters between Fianna Fail and SIPOC concerning the donations in question and the process through which SIPOC decided that there was no case to answer. However, there are a number of odd elements to the story, particularly the anonymised list of donations from Durkan to party members.

The exchange of letters is worth a look.

[Disclosure: I am a personal friend of the author of the Irish Examiner story]

Martin Cullen's ministerial expenses

I finally got around to scanning and uploading the rest of Martin Cullen’s ministerial expenses for 2008 and 2009, more for the record than for pushing a story.

Our thinking behind posting these is to allow Google to pick up the content of the PDFs through OCR – so when someone searchs “Cullen Beijing trip expenses 2008” they’ll get what they’re after. We’re trying to force transparency, I guess, in our own way.

I’m crazy-busy so haven’t had a chance to look through them properly, all I spotted to raise an eyebrow was a few Cartel Limos receipts. Have a look yourself.

Beijing August 2008

Kentucky (Ryder Cup) September 2008

London (re: Olympics 2012) October 2008

Brussels in November 2008

Other details of Martin Cullen’s ministerial expense can be found in our prior posts elsewhere on this website.

Martin Cullen goes to New York (June 2009)

Martin Cullen’s Paddy’s Day spending

Martin Cullen goes to London (November 2008)

Thanks to Ken Foxe for the documents. If you have any documents you want to put in the public domain give us a shout.

Documents relating to The Tank Field, Cork, now online

Elaine Byrne has posted a number of links relating to a decision by Cork City Council to acquire one of the few open spaces remaining in North East Cork City. You can view the information on her blog under a series of posted tagged “The Tank Field”.

Local journalists in Cork, lookin’ at you ‘ere…

The series is written in reply to a letter from the Board of Management of the school sent to the Irish Times following an opinion piece written by Dr Byrne on the matter. Links to correspondence and FOI documents are contained through-out.

There are ten points listed in the letter and Ms Byrne replies to each under a separete heading…

Continue reading “Documents relating to The Tank Field, Cork, now online”

TD/Senator expenses 2005 – 2008

For the record and as part of an ongoing FOI request, here are all expenses, allowances and salary figures of all TDs and Senators, 2005 – 2008. I received them today via email from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission. We hope to digitise this data shortly. I also received the following note:

In relation to the break down of allowances I wish to clarify the following:

1. Telephone Allowance is paid as an annual allowance on a quarterly basis to all Members. The allocation of this allowance to specific telephone bills is a matter for each individual Member, consequently the allowance is not quantified into land line calls and mobile phone calls. Any expenses incurred by members over and above this allowance have to be met by the individual Member.

2. Each member is also entitled to 1,750 “Post Office Preferred, pre-paid DL (one third A4) sized envelopes each month. Any postal charges that are over and above the pre-paid amount must be paid by the Member at the time of posting.

3. Daily Allowances appear within the Travel and Subsistence amounts on the records of any Member who is claiming Daily Allowance, this allowance is a flat rate allowance and there is no mileage element. Members who live within 15 miles of Leinster House can only claim this Daily Allowance.

4. The Travel and Subsistence Allowance for Members is paid as a combined figure through our financial management system and appears in the record as one monetary amount, consequently the record as released will give an overall figure for Travel and Subsistence in each subsequent year.

5. The Allowance to attend in the Houses for the purpose of conducting parliamentary business with other Members and the allowance to use the House facilities are again paid through our Financial Management System. These allowances are processed with the travel and overnight element of the claim, consequently they again appear within the Travel and Subsistence record as a monetary amount in the overall record. There are 25 nights allowed for using the House facilities and 5 nights for conducting parliamentary business.

6. Payments made in a given year can relate to a claim period for the same or a previous year.

7. Office and position holders have higher allowances due to the higher expenses they are deemed to have incurred.

Please note that former Members of the Oireachtas, Mr Tony Gregory T.D., Mr Joe Sherlock and Mr. Seamus Brennan T.D. (former Minister) and Senators Tony Kett, Kate Walsh, Peter Callanan details of whose expenses are included, have since died.

I would like to draw your attention to an administrative error which occurred in the payment of the Constituency Office Maintenance Allowance (COMA) which was beyond the control of Members. This allowance was overpaid by €931.83 in 2008 to re-elected Members due to a calculation error. As the COMA is paid in arrears, this overpayment took place in January 2008 and it therefore appears in the 2008 records. Accordingly the COMA for 2008 is overstated by €931.83. All Members affected were notified and all monies have been fully recouped. You should also note that some Coma payments made in 2008 related to expenses incurred in previous years which were not claimed until 2008.

You should also be aware that while some Members have monies showing in two positions, e.g. whip to a party and a committee position this signifies that they held these positions at different times in the year. The Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) and Ministerial, Parliamentary, Judicial and Court Officers Amendment Act 1998, states under Section 6(2) that “If a member is eligible during any period to receive more than one of the allowances provided for in sections 3, 4 and 5 of this Act, only the higher or highest of those allowances shall be paid or payable to the member during that period”.

I would also like to clarify that the amounts which appear for Members in receipt of Committee Allowances for 2008 in most cases are not an annual figure as various Members were allocated positions in 2007 and payment for these positions were not paid until 2008. The figures which appear are not reflective of annual amounts. I have included a schedule of specified position amounts which were in effect during 2008 for your assistance.

You should also be aware that following a Boundary Commission Report in 2007, several constituency boundaries were revised and re-categorised. All Members in constituencies which were re-categorised were reverted to the lowest rate and were subsequently repaid the correct allowance in January 2008, which in some cases included arrears. The figures which appear in 2008 again for some Members are not reflective of an annual amount.

Explanatory document

Deputies salary and allowances 2005
Deputies salary and allowances 2006
Deputies salary and allowances 2007
Deputies salary and allowances 2008

Senator salary and allowances 2005
Senator salary and allowances 2006
Senator salary and allowances 2007
Senator salary and allowances 2008

Oireachtas expenses 1998 – 2008

On August 30 I sought information on all TD and Senate expense from 1998 to 2008. On September 14 I blogged about this effort, and again on September 16.

As of now the situation is this: the Oireachtas is due to release all expenses data from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2008, for all TDs and Senators. However, we desire a complete record of all expenses claimed. To that end, we submitted an FOI request for all expenses data for 2002 and 2001, with a view to eventually seeking 2000 and 1999/1998. This would include complete calendar years, rather than simply previously released FOI data, which does not cover the entirety of the years in question.

Today we were informed that under Section 10 (1) (c) of the Act, the deciding officer believes that “granting the request would by reason of such number of records or an examination of such kind of records concerned as to cause substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of work of the public body concerned”.

However they have said they would release previously released FOI data.

We are mulling this one over.