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:
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:
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.
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.
You can ask for the following records held by Government departments or certain public bodies:
A record can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, plans, microfilm, microfiche, audio-visual material, etc.
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|
|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 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|
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.