First Ministerial ‘head to roll’ from FOI

The Freedom of Information Act has claimed its first minister in the UK – Ian Paisley Jr.

Investigations correspondent David Gordon at the Belfast Telegraph (who I’m honoured to say came on my FOI course a few months ago) used the law to dig into Paisley Jr’s lobbying for a private developer. This was followed late Tuesday, by his father Ian Paisley Sr dramatically announcing his departure as First Minister and DUP leader. Though he denied he had been forced to go, the impact of his son’s fall from grace obviously contributed to his decision.

Just a few months ago, Ian Paisley Jr looked invincible and his father (Ian Paisley Sr) was the First Minister and head of Ian Junior’s department. As David writes:

His resignation followed months of scrutiny over his lobbying for north coast developer Seymour Sweeney on a proposed Giant’s Causeway centre development and other schemes. It came after weekend revelations concerning the Ballymena constituency office he and his First Minister father rent through their Stormont allowances.

After days of speculation, the Assembly yesterday issued the Belfast Telegraph with official figures for MLA rental claims. The disclosure, following a freedom of information request, stated that the Paisleys are each receiving £28,600 per year for the Church Street office. This combined total of £57,200 for one property is almost three times higher than the next highest MLA claim.

Gordon writes how the Freedom of Information Act played a key role in bringing down the junior minister. Could this by chance be the reason for Ian Paisley Sr’s repeated attempts to curtail FOI in Northern Ireland while angrily attacking the use of the Act by “lazy journalists” ?

Obviously, David Gordon is quite the opposite and it is politicians’ fear of the public getting hold of raw source material that is always at the root of such complaints.

I’m offering another course 18 March 2008 if you’re interested in learning how to use FOI, though I can’t guarantee another ministerial head. You can book through the National Union of Journalists website

One Response to “First Ministerial ‘head to roll’ from FOI”

  1. Pat Berry says:

    Have just read your article in today’s Sunday Mail and are so grateful to you for all your hard work. What a pity there aren’t more people like you and if you were an MP would definitely vote for you. Unfortunately we don’t have MPs now with dedication or any consideration that they are being employed by the taxpayers of this country. They just want to give our rights away and the only people who have any rights are people who do not abide by the law; people who are incomers and anyone who wants to make a ‘fast buck’ by fiddling the system. Just think you are brilliant. Very best wishes to you.

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