A Tweet by complainant Róisín McGarr to the Charities Regulator regarding the removal of the Repeal mural from the wall of the Project Arts Centre has led to the Information Commissioner demanding to know why she was subsequently blocked.
Ahead of the referendum, McGarr had raised concerns about the decision to paint over the now iconic mural by the artist Maser. She also sent another Tweet mentioning the fact that almost 20 anti-Repeal groups were disguising themselves as charities on Facebook. Instead of replying to her messages, or indeed ignoring her, the Charities Regulator blocked her.
She contacted them, demanding to know their reasoning, which they refused to give, stating they did not believe the action affected either her or something in which she had a material interest. McGarr then contacted the Information Commissioner, citing Section 10 of the Freedom of Information Act.
The Charities Regulator in defending their decision told the Commissioner they did not believe McGarr had suffered because of being blocked, but a senior investigator did not accept it. Stephen Rafferty said: “The act of blocking the specific account, of which the applicant is the registered user, had the effect of restricting the applicant’s ability to use the service to interact with the CRA, unlike all other Twitter users whose accounts have not been blocked. In my view, this is an act that can reasonably be described as the exercise of a power which resulted in the withholding of a benefit to the applicant”. The Regulator was then ordered to provide the reasoning behind the blocking.
Speaking after the decision, McGarr said that “the CRA’s blocking was an unjustifiable attempt to restrict the right of a citizen to legitimately communicate with and about a public body and to easily access public information. The refusal of the CRA to explain their censorious action then added insult to injury.”
The Regulator has stated it is currently reviewing the Information Commissioner’s decision.
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