At a Cabinet Subcommittee on Covid-19 are from left: Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Health Simon Harris and Chief Medical Officer of the HSE Dr Tony Holohan; Ken Foxe
The Department of Health has refused to release copies of briefings and submissions for Minister Simon Harris relating to the spread of coronavirus.
The Department has said “the public interest would be best served by refusal of these records at this time”.
Separately, the HSE is also refusing to release a copy of the “draft unsigned agreement” between themselves and the operators of private hospitals.
Ken Foxe writes:
Access to that record has been refused under five different sections of the FOI Act: Section 29 on deliberations, Section 30 on functions and negotiations, Section 31, Section 35 on information obtained in confidence, and Section 36 on commercial sensitivity:
Section 29 has been invoked on the basis that the agreement is still under deliberation. Release of it could “impact negatively on the integrity” of that:
Section 30 has been invoked because the record is the subject of ongoing negotiations. Release of the record could be expected to disclose negotiating positions:
Section 35 and 36 have been invoked because the record contains “confidential information” and because they consider it to be commercially sensitive:
The HSE said that the public interest would not be served by release of the record. They said it would place them at a disadvantage in “its efforts to maximise its use of public funds and its capacity in response to the Covid-19 public health emergency”
For good measure, they also invoked Section 31 saying agreement was subject of confidential communications for the purposes of obtaining legal advice. They believe the record is “subject to legal professional privilege”. No public interest test is required for this exemption:
We suggested that the Dept/HSE could simply publish these records to their websites and we would be happy to withdraw our requests. That hasn’t happened and both will now go for internal review.
Right To Know