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Freedom of information

Information

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 (FOI) as amended by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 obliged government departments, the Health Service Executive (HSE), local authorities and a range of other public bodies to publish information on their activities and to make the information they held, including personal information, available to citizens.

On 14 October 2014, the Freedom of Information Act 2014 came into effect and repealed the 1997 and 2003 Acts. The new Act introduced a number of changes to the Freedom of Information scheme and widened the range of bodies to which the FOI legislation applies to all public bodies, unless specifically exempt. It also allows for the Government to prescribe (or designate) other bodies receiving significant public funds, so that the FOI legislation applies to them also.

The old legislation continues to apply to any FOI request made before the new legislation came into effect. It also applies to any subsequent review or appeal.

Rules

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides the following statutory rights:

  • A legal right for each person to access information held by a body to which FOI legislation applies
  • A legal right for each person to have official information relating to himself/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading
  • A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting himself/herself.

Publication scheme

Under Sections 15 and 16 of the old FOI legislation, information about the activities of bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Acts, and the records they held, were contained in their Freedom of Information manuals, which each body was obliged to publish. These Section 15 and 16 manuals are being replaced by a publication scheme under Section 8 of the 2014 Act. Section 8 is not yet in effect.

The publication scheme will contain the same information as published in the manuals, as well as any information that may be required under a model scheme or guidelines that the Minister for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform may set out.

Requests for information

You can ask for the following records:

  • •Any records relating to you personally, whenever they were created
  • •All other records created after a certain date
    - 21 October 1998 for the HSE and local authorities
    - 21 April 1998 for public bodies that were covered by the old FOI legislation
    - 21 April 2008 for public bodies that were not covered by the old FOI legislation
    - the date of the prescribing order (or a specified date) for prescribed bodies

A record can be a paper document or information held on computer. It includes, for example, printouts, maps, plans, microfilm, audio-visual material, disks and tapes.

Rates

Section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for fees and charges. The current fees are:

Type of Request or Application Standard Fee* Reduced Fee**
Initial request for a record Free (was €15) Free (was €10)
Internal review €30 (was €75) €10 (was €25)
Review by Information Commissioner €50 (was €150) €15 (was €50)
Application for amendment containing incorrect information Free Free
Application for reasons for a decision affecting individual Free Free

* There are no fees where you appeal a decision to charge a fee or deposit, or a fee or deposit of a specific amount, under Section 47 of the Act.

** Reduced fees will apply in respect of medical card holders and third parties who appeal a decision to release their information on public interest grounds.

Charges for search, retrieval and copying of records

Charges may be applied by the body for the time spent finding and retrieving records, and for any copying costs incurred by them in providing you with the material requested. It is very unlikely that any charges will be applied in respect of personal records, except where a large number of records are involved.

If the cost of search, retrieval and copying is €100 or less, no charge is applied. If the charge exceeds €100, full fees apply. You cannot be charged more than €500.

If the estimated cost of search, retrieval and copying is more than €700 the body can refuse to process your request, unless you refine your request to bring the search, retrieval and copying fees below this limit.

Type of Charge Standard Charge
Search and retrieval of records €20 per hour
Photocopying 4 cent per sheet
CD-ROM containing copy of documents €10
Radiograph (X-ray) containing copy documents €6

How to apply

It is important to note that it may not be necessary to make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act from a body. A considerable amount of material is already made available to the public through websites, information leaflets, publications and in response to oral and written enquiries. Most organisations have a dedicated information section, which is available to assist you with general queries, requests for information and publications.

If the information you require is not readily available, you must make your request in writing to the FOI Unit of the body and your application should refer to the Freedom of Information Act. If your application for information does not mention the Act, then your application will be dealt with as an ordinary request for information. If information is required in a particular form (for example, photocopy or computer disk) this should be specified in the application.

Try to be as specific as you can in order to enable the organisation to identify the information you require. Where possible try to indicate the time period for which you wish to access records (for example, records created between May 2012 and December 2012).

Further information on making a request under the FOI Act can be found on the FOI website of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Under the Act, a request for records must be acknowledged within 2 weeks and, in most cases, responded to within 4 weeks. If a third party is involved, there may be another 3 weeks before a response.

FOI review procedures

If you are not satisfied with the response of the body to any aspect of your request for information (for example, refusal of information, form of access, charges) you can seek to have the decision re-examined. Also, if you have not received a reply within 4 weeks of your initial application (this is deemed a refusal of your request) you can seek to have the decision re-examined.

The internal review of an FOI decision is carried out by more senior members of staff within the body and must be made within 3 weeks. An application for review of a decision should be addressed to the FOI Unit of the body involved.

FOI appeals

If you are still unhappy with the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner investigates complaints of non-compliance with FOI legislation and generally promotes a freedom of information culture in the public service.

Where to apply

FOI requests should be addressed to the FOI Unit of the body holding the records.

Information on the FOI Act is available from:

FOI Central Policy Unit

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
7-9 Merrion Row
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0)1 631 8258
Fax:+353 (0)1 604 5750
Homepage: http://foi.gov.ie/home/
Email: cpu@finance.gov.ie


Application to review a decision should be addressed to the FOI Unit of the body that made the decision.

Further appeals should be addressed to:

Office of the Information Commissioner

18 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0)1 639 5689
Locall:1890 223 030
Fax:+353 (0)1 639 5674
Homepage: http://www.oic.gov.ie
Email: info@oic.gov.ie

Page updated: 31 October 2014

Language

Gaeilge

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Contact Us

If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.