A Laois Labour Senator and a Fianna Fáil TD have both called for EirGrid to be brought under the Freedom of Information Act, but suggestions have been made that Labour will only “talk the talk” and will not support the motion.
FF TD Sean Fleming has predicted that “some Labour Senators will talk the talk on this issue, but will not have the courage to walk the walk”, when an amendment is put to Minister Brendan Howlin asking for EirGrid to be excluded from the list of bodies exempt from Freedom of Information.
Even though Minister Howlin already rejected this call in November of last year, Deputy Fleming has said he intends proposing the amendment again at the report stage in the Dáil in mid February.
“I was highly critical of the arrogance and incompetence of EirGrid, so much so, that the chairman of the committee, Labour TD Ciaran Lynch attacked me for being so critical of EirGrid,” he said.
“You can be very sure despite all the talk that every Labour TD will vote against this amendment in the Dáil,” he continued. “I can also guarantee you that Fianna Fáil will put down a similar amendment when the Freedom of Information legislation is in the Seanad. Labour Senators will support their Minister and vote against this in the Seanad.
“However I do predict that some Labour Senators will ‘talk the talk’ on this issue but will not have the courage to ‘walk the walk’,” Deputy Fleming concluded.
Deputy Fleming was responding to a statement made by Labour Senator John Whelan, who also called for EirGrid to be made fully answerable and compliant under the Freedom of Information Act.
“In the spirit of openness, transparency and accountability, it should follow that what’s good for Irish Water is good for EirGrid and good for the taxpayer and communities. I believe this would help avoid another Irish Water-like debacle,” said Sen Whelan.
“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and accountability to FOI should apply to all State and semi-State companies. It is ludicrous to think that basic information in the public interest was repeatedly denied to the Oireachtas, its committees and elected TDs and senators, but could be casually disclosed on a radio programme.”
He said that EirGrid, like Irish Water, must be open to the full rigours of public and political scrutiny, particularly as they are attempting to embark on a grid upgrade programme to the tune of €3.2 billion of public money.