Coillte Cuideachta Ghníomhaíochta Ainmnithe v Commissioner for Environmental Information

JudgeHumphreys J.
Judgment Date22 November 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] IEHC 640
CourtHigh Court
Docket Number[HC.MCA.2022.0000278]

In the Matter of Order 84C of the Rules of the Superior Courts and Regulation 13 of the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007–2018

Coillte Cuideachta Ghníomhaíochta Ainmnithe
Commissioner for Environmental Information


Person(s) unknown Aka John and/or Jane Doe
Notice Parties

[2023] IEHC 640



JUDGMENT of Humphreys J. delivered on Wednesday the 22nd day of November, 2023


. It is not every day that litigation features cameo appearances by Willy Wonka, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Charlton Heston, Ed Harris, Gene Hackman, Neil Diamond, Mickey Rourke and Nick Nolte.


. But by a strange coincidence, Coillte has been bombarded with requests for environmental information in the names of characters played by the latter individuals (leaving Mr Wonka briefly aside), and other apparently pseudonymous names. With the skills of a forensic psychiatrist trying to build a profile of a suspect, and without even the benefit of a Norwich Pharmacal [1974] A.C. 133 order, Coillte have pretty much identified the person (more likely than not to be singular, one could reasonably infer without being certain about it) at the centre of this exercise as someone interested in Americana and, more specifically, deeply versed in American cinema, particularly of the 1980s and later. One can also add that this person is obviously equally versed in the Irish legislative scheme regarding access to information on the environment (and while his motive is legally irrelevant, maybe I can say in passing that the possibility did cross my mind that rather than merely having a specific grudge against Coillte and its parent Department, he might (also) have been engaging in legal activism by hoping to stir up a dispute of the present kind with a view to establishing a right to make an anonymous request). He might also be proficient in computer programming, seeing that (writing as Mr Wonka, Ms Hazel Wood and other names) he would appear to have also generated over 30,000 requests against the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which would be hard to do other than in an automated manner. All of that probably narrows it down quite a bit. One might have to beg forgiveness for wondering whether, if this case was a filmscript for one of the movies of such interest to the requester, or perhaps the televised version, it would be at this point that Colleen Rooney would enter the story to join the pieces in a way that had stumped the professionals.


. Whoever he is, Coillte's correspondent generated a very large number of probably anonymised or pseudonymised requests in identical or near identical format between 13th March and 30th May, 2022 seeking access to information on the environment. No physical addresses were provided.


. Ms Deirdre Coleman of Coillte, in response to Ms McGoldrick for the Commissioner, avers as follows:

“4. I say that in my Grounding Affidavit I referred at §7 to the Appellant receiving a ‘very large number of anonymised / pseudonymised requests’ and identified the number as 58 of those requests as being covered by these proceedings. Ms McGoldrick correctly refers to the Commissioner receiving 58 appeals. However, for the purpose of updating this Honourable Court and in the interests of clarity, over the relevant period the Appellant received 97 anonymised / pseudonymised AIE requests in total, of which 81 were appealed to the Respondent. The OCEI decided to batch the first 58 cases received, with a further 23 cases remaining to be decided upon.

5. I say that at §8 of Ms McGoldrick's Affidavit she states it doesn't appear to her that the names of the requesters are those of fictional characters or celebrities. I say not all of the pseudonyms can be traced but insofar as they can I beg to refer to Table 1 below where the Appellant has set out its views on the possible inspiration for the various pseudonyms used.



Dermot James

Irish historical author — ‘The Gore Booths of Lissadell’ ‘John Hamilton of Donegal: 1880 – 1884 This Recklessly Generous Landlord’

Russell Price

Character called ‘Russell Price’ in Under Fire (1983) played by Nick Nolte

Alex Grazier

Character called ‘Alex Grazier’ in Under Fire (1983) played by Gene Hackman

Ed Oates

Character called ‘Oates’ in Under Fire (1983) played by Ed Harris

Jack Callaghan

Character called ‘Jack Callaghan’ in While You Were Sleeping (1995) played by Bill Pullman

Tom Farrell

American actor appearing in movies such as The Screaming Manor Tommy Farrell, actor in dozens of westerns from the 1940s to the 1980s

Charles Horman

American journalist and documentary filmmaker who was executed in Chile in 1973 — movie made about his story called ‘Missing’ in 1982

Tom Cody

Character called ‘Tom Cody’ in Streets of Fire (1984) played by Michael Pare

Matt Garth

Character called ‘Captain Matt Garth’ in Midway (1976) played by Charlton Heston

Stanley White

Character called ‘Captain Stanley White’ in Year of the Dragon (1985) played by Mickey Rourke

Frank Dunne

Character called ‘Frank White’ in Gallipoli (1981) played by Mel Gibson

Ben Wade

Character called ‘Ben Wade’ in 3.10 to Yuma (2007) played by Russell Crowe and movie of same name in 1957 played by Glenn Ford

Frank Ridgeway

Character called ‘Frank Ridgeway’ in Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) played by Tom Berenger

Eddie Wilson

Character called ‘Eddie Wilson’ in Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) played by Michael Pare

Jess Robin

Character called ‘Jess Robin’ in The Jazz Singer (1980) played by Neil Diamond

Jason Sweet

American actor of the same name

6. I say that at §12 of Ms McGoldrick's Affidavit she states that she is not aware of any instance where a public authority has sought confirmation of the identity of a requester. I understand that this was in fact done in the case of Wind Noise Info and Wexford County Council CEI/14/0017. However, more to the point, Ms McGoldrick appears to be unaware of the difficulties which public bodies experience in processing vast numbers of anonymous requests. Earlier requests from requesters using some of the names used by the requesters in these proceedings had been processed in the normal way by the Appellant because, at that juncture, they appeared to be typical or one-off requests. It is only when the significant numbers of anonymous / pseudonymous requests of similar style, type and phraseology and approach began to be received by the Appellant from 10 March 2022 onwards that this issue became apparent. It was at that point that the Appellant became aware of what appears to be an organised campaign and took steps to verify the identity of requesters.

7. At §14 of Ms McGoldrick's Affidavit she refers to the Appellant having 4 weeks to process the requests and a further 4 weeks if required. However, the reality is that the Appellant had no prospect of being able to process this unprecedented number of requests in the permissible time period, in addition to processing the ‘genuine’ requests. Between 10 March 2022 and 7 June 2022, the Appellant received 130 verified and anonymised / pseudonymised requests. This equates to just over 2 voluminous AIE requests received per working day during March to May 2022 (62 working days) with a further 1 received in June 2022. Since 7 June 2022 the Appellant has received no new anonymised / pseudonymised requests. I say that this fortifies the Appellant in its view that these requests all originate from a single source and / or form part of a co-ordinated campaign as they all abruptly ceased at the same time. I say the unprecedented number of requests can be seen by reference to the table below:

Coillte AIE statistics 2018–2022






Total AIEs






Internal Reviews












8. I say that the impacts on the Appellant's operations from what appears to be a concerted and co-ordinated campaign is serious. In addition to significant expenditure of management time and resources, I say that the Appellant has increased the AIE Team from 0.5 staff FTE (full-time equivalent) to 3.5 staff FTE. By way of example, I beg to refer to a spreadsheet where all 58 requests the subject matter of these proceedings are listed along with the estimated time for them to be addressed. The total estimated time to deal with these requests is 152 days, although in practice dealing with the requests tends to take longer than the estimate. I beg to refer to a spreadsheet that I have initialled with the letters DC1 prior to the swearing hereof which lists the requests the subject matter of these proceedings, gives a summary of the actions required to answer each one and an estimate of the likely time.

9. I say that the Appellant is committed to the dissemination of environmental information pursuant to AIE Regulations. However, it appears to it that the requests the subject matter of these proceedings are not designed to elicit environmental information and appear to be a part of a wider campaign engaged in by persons unknown for questionable motives. I say that the campaign has very significant implications for the Appellant's operations and has the unfortunate side effect of diverting scarce time and resources away from genuine requests for environmental information with attendant delays and frustration for genuine members of the public or NGOs looking to utilise the machinery provided by the AIE Regulations in order to access information on the environment.”


. Generally, Coillte replied to these requests by seeking a (current) address from the applicants, and confirmation that the names were the applicants' actual (legal) names.


. None of this information was provided. Accordingly, Coillte...

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