irish economy

“Leaking of Budget details used to be a resigning offence,” McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said he will be seeking immediate legal clarification surrounding the permissibility of leaking Budget details and discussions by either members of Government or those involved in the budgetary process. Deputy McGrath made his comments in reaction to a growing sense that the Oireachtas is being undermined by such wholesale leaking and that it contributes to a dangerous erosion of the concept of cabinet confidentiality:

“I find it very disturbing that we are in a now in position where the leaking of confidential Budget information is treated as the norm and without consequence. In 1995 when Phil Hogan was Minister of State at Finance and inadvertently leaked confidential budget data he resigned immediately, which was an honourable thing to do regardless of his more recent performances.

irish-economy

At the time there were also serious question asked regarding the obligations of programme managers and special advisers in relation to official secrecy, since they were governed by the normal Civil Service regulations regarding official secrecy and integrity and were subject to the Official Secrets Act, 1963.

On budget day however every local and national news broadcaster has many if not all of the main Budget detail days and even weeks in advance. While I appreciate the vital role the media plays in this process, surely there must be concerns about how this undermines the confidentiality of government business?

If details of something as serious and far reaching as the Budget can be leaked without consequence what is to stop any Minister or Minister of State of their officials from leaking more sensitive data since the penalties for doing so seem to be either non-existent or not enforced.

We all remember the controversy that erupted when details of our national budget was sent to the German parliament for scrutiny; well it is my belief that the impulse we all felt then of the loss of sovereignty and the downgrading of the Oireachtas is similarly at play here.

No one is advocating a total lockdown of information but there has to be some kind of meaningful restraint in relation to leaking massive amounts of details, which is often done for strategic political reasons and not in the name of openness and transparency,” concluded Deputy McGrath.


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