We have word this afternoon that NAMA has decided to appeal the decision of the High Court in February 2013 which upheld the decision by the Commissioner of Environmental Information, Emily O’Reilly, to designate NAMA as a public body. That judgment meant that NAMA was subject to environment information requests which would provide a modicum of transparency in the Agency to the general public.
Gavin Sheridan at TheStory.ie has confirmed that NAMA is appealing the decision, and is, in addition seeking a stay on the High Court judgment which would mean that environmental information requests would not be permissible until the Supreme Court had held the appeal. As Gavin says, such appeals are taking in the region of four years – seriously four years, no wonder judges are concerned about resources and the reputation of the State.
Tomorrow morning at 10.30am, Judge Mac Eochaidh is set to decide if he will impose a stay pending the outcome of the appeal. Gavin will be attending in person; NAMA is [AMENDED] making oral submissions. Judge Mac Eochaidh has a mixed history on transparency, he approved Paddy McKillen’s recent application for an injunction stopping the Sunday Times printing a story about him, but he was also the barrister whose advertisement in the 1990s started the planning corruption tribunals.
The position on here remains skeptical as to the value of information that can be obtained under environmental information requests, but such requests can have unintended consequences. NAMA has spent €120,000 on resisting the Information Commissioner’s decision, originally given in 2011.
Previously, finance minister Michael Noonan claimed his hands were tied when it came to influencing NAMA’s consideration of lodging an appeal. This was at the same time as we were learning that Minister Noonan had directed NAMA to make a €1bn credit line available to the utterly bust IBRC!
If the judge tomorrow refuses the stay, then we might finally be free to submit environment information requests to NAMA. If not, then the whole matter, for all intents and purposes, dies because by 2017, information requests at NAMA might not be very helpful in terms of influencing its future actions.
UPDATE: 17th April, 2013. Gavin Sheridan has reported on this morning’s proceedings on his TheStory.ie website which also includes a copy of his submission read to the court. The upshot is that Judge Mac Eochaidh has reserved judgment until Friday morning, 19th April 2013.