You are here: Home > Government in Ireland > National government > Standards and accountability > Freedom of Information in Ireland

Freedom of Information in Ireland

Information

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

The Freedom of Information Act establishes the following statutory rights:

  • A legal right for each person to access information held by public bodies and government departments
  • 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.

Rules

Duties of Public Bodies

Information about the activities of public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act (Section 15 and Section 16) is contained in the Freedom of Information Manual, which every public body is obliged to publish.

The information that must be made available in the manual includes:

  • A general outline of the structure and functions, powers and duties of the organisation; the services it provides to the public and the procedures by which the public can avail of those services;
  • A description of the types of records held
  • The arrangements made to enable people to access information and records and to correct inaccurate or misleading personal information if this arises
  • Information that may assist people to exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information Act.

In practice, most of the public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act have their Section 15 and 16 Manuals available on their websites. Paper copies of these documents are also available. A list of public bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Act in Ireland is available.

Code of practice on accessibility of public services and information provided by public bodies

The Disability Act 2005 provides a statutory basis for accessible public services. Sections 26, 27 and 28 of that Act place obligations on public bodies to make their services and information accessible to people with disabilities.

The Department of Justice and Equality charged the National Disability Authority (NDA) with developing a Code of practice on accessibility of public services and information provided by public bodies. The purpose of this Code is to guide public bodies to meet their obligations under the Act. The Code covers a wide range of services provided by public bodies - including the provision of information, information resources, schemes, allowances or other benefits administered by public bodies.

Requests for information

You can ask for the following records held by Government departments or certain public bodies:

  • Any records relating to you personally, whenever they were created
  • All other records created after 21 April, 1998

A record can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, plans, microfilm, microfiche, audio-visual material, etc.

Rates

Charges may be applied by the public body for the time spent finding records and for any photocopying costs incurred by them in providing you with the material requested.

It is very unlikely that any fees will be charged in respect of personal records, except where a large number of records are involved. Section 47 of the Freedom of Information Act provides for fees. The current rates are:

Type of Request or Application Standard Fee* Reduced Fee**
Initial request for a record €15 €10
Internal Review €75 €25
Review by Information Commissioner €150 €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 an 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.

Fees for search, retrieval and copying of records

Fees also apply in respect of the time spent searching and retrieving records that are released to you following your request. Fees are also applied in respect of the copying of any records released. Such fees are unlikely to arise if your request is for personal information.

Type of Request or Application Fee Standard Fee
Search and retrieval of records €20.95 per hour
Photocopying 4 cent per sheet
Computer diskettes (3.5 inch) containing copy of documents 51 cent
CD-ROM containing copy of documents €10.16
Radiograph (X-ray) containing copy documents €6.35

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 public body. A considerable amount of material is already made available to the public through information leaflets, publications and in response to oral and written enquiries. Most organisations have a dedicated Information Office, 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 public 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 (e.g. photocopy, computer disk, etc.,) 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 (e.g., records created between May 1998 and December 1998).

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 Freedom of Information 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 three weeks before a response.

FOI Review Procedures

If you are not satisfied with the response of the public body to any aspect of your request for information, (i.e., refusal of information, form of access, charges) or you have not received a reply within 4 weeks of your initial application, this is deemed a refusal of your request and you can seek to have the decision re-examined by more senior members of staff within the public body. The internal review of an FOI decision must be made within 3 weeks. Applications for review of a decision should be addressed to the FOI Unit of the public body involved.

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 Irish FOI legislation and generally promotes a freedom of information culture in the Irish public service.

Where to apply

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

Information on the FOI Act in Ireland is available from:

FOI Central Policy Unit

Department of Public Expenditore 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 public body or office 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: 17 June 2010

Language

Gaeilge

Related Documents

  • Access to environmental information
    You have the right to access certain information about the environment and pollutants that may affect it. Find out how to access environmental information.
  • Access to medical records
    There are various ways in which you may access personal medical records. Find out about the procedures and rules.
  • Access to Garda records
    Under data protection legislation you have the right to access personal information which the Gardaí hold on you, except in certain circumstances. Find out how to access your information.

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.