Last Friday May 27th 2011 the Irish News published a front page headline announcing that a “Schools body charters private flights” The detail suggested that over a period of just seven years CCEA held a series of conferences council meetings and workshops at hotels. At one conference £2,176 was spent on drinks, an amount that was four times that of the dinner expense. Many other instances could not be broken down because of lack of detail provided in response to requests for information made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
What was instantly remarkable was the absence of the name of the education correspondent, Simon Doyle from this and subsequent Irish News articles on the CCEA spending. Simon Doyle has graced the front page of the Irish News for many years with his education related exclusives and accounts including attacks on academic selection and grammar schools. Simon Doyle’s absence from this story is a story in itself.
The Irish News claimed the following day that their information had been provided by a concerned teacher, Barney Magill using FOI. Careful reading of the account on page 13 suggested that the DENI told him he would have to pay for the information requested. How the DENI became involved in a request for information from CCEA, the public body holding the information, has yet to be addressed by journalists.
Below is a typical response from CCEA to requests for detailed information. Compare this to the claim from the Irish News on Mr Magill’s request and ask why the difference in responses and , to date, why no copies of requests or responses have been made available in PDF form by the Irish News.