Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (164)

Mary Upton

Question:

293 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science the conditions under which a person (details supplied) was given access to records of his Department; if other persons can be given access to the same records and files; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2943/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The person referred to by the Deputy has not been given access to records of my Department. In considering how access is to be granted to the records and to whom, my Department has to be mindful of key priorities at this time. High on the list of priorities is the Department's obligation to provide information and records as so ordered by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. Another priority as regards access to the records arises under the statutory obligations imposed upon the Department by the Freedom of Information Act. The records in question are also accessed within the Department on a regular basis in the context of litigation arising from past abuse and, from time to time, the Garda authorities also require access to these records as part of their investigations into past abuse.

To allow any further access to the records would inevitably lead to requests from others for similar access, and indeed the Department has already had such requests. The situation could quickly escalate to the point where the commission, the courts and Garda authorities would be hindered in their work and the Department's capacity to carry out its statutory duties in respect of freedom of information would be seriously jeopardised.

Circumstances now require that access to the records be limited for the moment to the priority purposes outlined above. This is in the interests of maintaining the records in good order; ensuring that the commission can carry out its work effectively; ensuring that people who are seeking legal redress can have access through the courts to the documents they require; and ensuring that people can exercise their statutory rights to information under the Freedom of Information Act.