The Ombudsman has ruled that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) was justified in refusing Inshore Ireland access under FOI to a ten-year-old report, part-funded by the European Commission.

In December 2014, the DCENR refused Inshore Ireland’s FOI request for the SUMBAWS on the basis that ‘the Department is not in a position to provide the report requested’.

Following an internal review of this decision by the DCENR – requested by Inshore Ireland – an official of that department affirmed the original decision on the basis that ‘the Department does not hold the record sought by the applicant’.

The SUMBAWS project (2002-2005) had a working budget of €2.3m, €1.5m (65%) of which came from the EU Commission. Contributors included Ireland; Scotland; Netherlands and Norway. The Irish contributions were from the Central Fisheries Board, (now Inland Fisheries Ireland), and the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Throughout 2015, Inshore Ireland reported its efforts to obtain a copy of the SUMBAWS report from both agencies. Two earlier requests by IFA Aquaculture – through the FOI mechanism – also failed to unearth SUMBAWS. IFA Aquaculture’s second attempt to secure a copy – under the Public Access to Information on the Environment mechanism – also failed.

Notwithstanding, Inshore Ireland understands that the SUMBAWS report – or parts of it – were referenced in a formal complaint to the EU Commission, resulting in a five-year investigation.

A decade since it was published, it appears that no one has succeeded in obtaining a copy of the Final SUMBAWS report from official sources in Ireland; those requesting it are advised to contact the University of St Andrews or the European Union for a copy.

Why is this report apparently not available from any official Irish source? If anyone can find this report on an Irish website, please contact Inshore Ireland at [email protected]

Full analysis in our next print edition, publishing November 28.