Church of Scientology

The Irish Times/June 13, 2002

The Church of Scientology looked for certain records in the Department of Foreign Affairs. There were a number of despatches from ambassadors about the church.

The department "decided that to disclose the existence or non- existence of records relating to the request could reasonably be expected to affect adversely the international relations of the State".

These records contained details "as reported by an Irish embassy, of a foreign government's views on the Scientology movement and of actions taken by that government concerning the movement".

Most "of the information contained in the records was already in the public domain". The department had not shown "that the release of the records could reasonably be expected to give rise to the adverse effects which it had identified in its submission and I directed that the records be released". The Department of Foreign Affairs "seems to feel that all diplomatic exchanges between ambassadors and department should be a class exemption", that they should be exempted regardless of content.

"We asked them to show what harm this would do [to release the information], because in a sense the records were quite innocuous."

In its response to the applicant, the department used a provision that it could "neither confirm nor deny" the records. In his ruling, the commissioner said that "at the very least, the department should have acknowledged the existence of records without necessarily disclosing the circumstances surrounding their creation."

The commissioner directed that the records be released. "We expect public bodies when they refuse records to justify their refusals and they have to do it strictly by criteria laid down in the Act."

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