Last month I put an FOI request in with the Department of the Taoiseach for the following:
(1) All transcripts of public sittings of the Moriarty Tribunal from its inception to the date on which this request is received.
(2) The contract for transcription services and a breakdown of fees charged for transcription services.
(3) The breakdown of fees for the maintenance and building of the Moriarty Tribunal website, and the contract for this.
Today I received the reply. I had to read it twice to let it sink in.
I can, in some way, live with the fact that the taxpayer spent the bones of €1 million on transcription fees since the inception of the Tribunal in 1998. But I cannot fathom how a) the transcripts are not available online and b) that I have to pay (again) to see the transcripts of the Tribunal and c) that Doyle Court Reports retains copyright on transcripts of public sittings of a Tribunal of Inquiry setup by the Department and paid for by the Irish people.
I called Doyle Court Reporters this morning and they were very courteous and helpful. I asked for a quote as to how much I would have to pay for digital (.doc) copies of all 370 days of public sittings of the Moriarty Tribunal. They called me back a short time later, stating that for all days the cost would be €16,600 @ €45 per day. But if I was bulk buying they would be prepared to offer a discount of 25%.
I did suggest to DCR that since the public had already paid nearly €1 million for the transcripts, it seems a little odd that I would, as a citizen, have to fork out another €16,600 to get copies of the transcripts. DCR were again courteous and helpful, and suggested I speak with the Moriarty Tribunal.
I then called the Moriarty Tribunal, where I spoke with the registrar, Siobhan Hayes. First I asked if the Tribunal had copies of all transcripts, to which the answer was yes. Are these subject to FOI I then asked… to which she eventually replied no, and that copyright was with DCR. I then asked why other Tribunals, such as Mahon and Morris, had published transcripts on their websites, and Moriarty ones were unavailable. I was told that the original agreement was that copyright would stay with DCR, and that was the way it was. I then asked for a copy of the contract or agreement between the Tribunal and DCR in relation to stenography services. Siobhan said she would get back to me on this issue.
Of course a couple of questions arise. First is whether the Department of the Taoiseach does hold the transcripts, but simply pointed me in the direction of Doyle Court Reporters for copies of them. Second is how, exactly, copyright on transcripts of a public sitting of a Tribunal applies.
Third, and most importantly, is why the transcripts are unavailable for public consumption as a matter of public record. These are historically important transcripts containing the sworn evidence of former Taoisigh including Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern, as well as other former senior ministers, civil servants and businessmen, all in relation to extremely serious issues of public concern. Indeed when a Tribunal is established it is invariably included in the Terms of Reference that it concerns “definite matters of urgent public importance”.
Yet in relation to a matter of urgent public importance, for a Tribunal that is shortly to issue its second and final report, I can’t see who said what in relation to anything on any given day, whatsoever.
Mad, isn’t it?
Morris transcript FOI