The Data Protection Commission has disagreed with claims by the Department of Finance that it cannot disclose details of fees paid to barristers because of data protection laws.

The Department has refused to release details of fees paid to lawyers in respect of the escrow fund set up to hold €14 billion paid by Apple in back taxes.

The escrow fund was set up after the European Commission ruled that Apple had received unfair tax incentives from Ireland, something the Government is appealing.

The Department of Finance has paid €7 million in legal and other costs associated with the fund but has refused a request by the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee to give details of the fees paid to barristers, saying to do so would be in breach of data protection laws.

But in a letter to the PAC seen by RTÉ News, the Data Protection Commissioner says there are a number of legal bases under GDPR rules that would allow such information to be released. 

It said that the practice of disclosing the names of barristers, along with the fees paid to them by Government departments and public bodies, is a longstanding one, and it is not clear what has caused the apparent recent change in practice.

The Data Protection Commissioner gave an example of how it gave information to the PAC about fees it recently paid to barristers. 

It said it did so in the interest of being transparent and accountable as a public body funded by the Exchequer.

It said it fully supports a proposal by the PAC to make a recommendation to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform that tenderers for publicly-funded contracts would be told that their fees and costs will be disclosed in future.

Read more:
Ireland's Apple escrow account declined by €16m in 2018
Full €13bn Apple tax payment now in escrow account