Freedom of Information

Under Construction

The Freedom of Information Act, 1997 establishes three new statutory rights for persons:

1. To access information held by public bodies.

2. To have official information relating to him/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading.

3. To obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself.

The purpose of the act is to assert the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy.

Decisions made by public bodies should be more open to public scrutiny.

Section 15 requires each public body to prepare and publish a manual setting out a general description of:

(a) Structure and organisation

(b) Functions, powers, duties

(c) Services it provides for the public and how these may be availed of

(d)A general description of the rules and guidelines used in implementing its schemes and programmes

(e) Classes of records held and the arrangements for enabling the public to access such records

(f) Names and designations of members of the staff of the body responsible for carrying out these arrangements

(g) Rights of review and appeal against the decisions of the body

The central purpose of the manual is to assist the public in ascertaining the information held by each organisation and how to access it.

Section 16 of the Act requires each public body to publish the following:

(a) Rules, procedures, practices, guidelines and interpretations used by the body

(b) An index of any precedents kept by the body, which may be used in making decisions, determinations or recommendations under any enactment or scheme administered by the body, with respect to rights, privileges or benefits to which member of the public are or may be entitled and obligations, penalties or other sanctions to which members of the public are or may be subject.

(c) Information in relation to the manner or intended manner of administration of any scheme

(d) Unpublished records that may be accessed under the FOI Act:

(e) All records created since the commencement date 21 April 1998

(f) All personal records irrespective of when created

(g) Any other records necessary to the understating of a current record

(h) All personnel records of staff in public bodies created less than 3 years before commencement. Earlier records may be accessed if they are liable to be used in a way that might adversely affect the interests of the member of staff involved.

Making a FOI Request

1. State that the request is made under the FOI Act

2. Set out sufficient particulars to enable the record to be identified

3. Specify the preferred form of access, if he or she has such a preference

Receipt of each request will be acknowledged within two weeks of receipt, the request must be processed within 4 weeks.

Right of Review and Appeal

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interest of the State or of third parties. Where the Institute invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be the subject of appeal.

Details of the appeals mechanisms are as follows:

Internal Review

An internal review of the initial decision may be requested and will be carried out by an official at a higher level, such a review may be requested if:

(a) you are dissatisfied with the initial response received

(b) you have not received a response within four week of making the request is deemed a refusal of your request and allows you to request an internal review

A request for and internal review must be made within 4 weeks of receipt of the initial decision and the internal review must be completed within 3 weeks, requests for an internal review should be make in writing and submitted to:

Review by the Information Commissioner

An independent review may be sought from the Information Commissioner if you are not satisfied with the decision of the internal reviewer or you have not received notification of the decision of the internal reviewer within 3 weeks of making your request.

Appeals should be make in writing to the

Office of the Information Commissioner

18 Lower Leeson Street

Dublin 2

Phone: 01 678 5222

Fax: 01 661 0570

email: ombudsman@ombudsman.irlgov.ie

FEES

Fees are currently set at the following rates in respect of time spent in efficiently locating copying non-personal records:

16.50 per hour search and retrieval

3p per sheet for a photocopy

40p per computer disk

8 for a CD-ROM

RECORDS

A record can include:

(a) Paper records, books, files, letters, loose papers, diaries, post-it notes, and computer printouts

(b) Electronic records disks, servers, databases

(c) Audio-visual records

(d) Photographs

Written reports:

(i) Should be clear, precise and objective

(ii) Any details you record should be accurate and factual

(iii) Reasons for decisions should be carefully documented

(iv) Support opinions with facts, refer to policies where appropriate

All recorded information forms part of the official record holdings of an organisation and falls under the scope of the Act, personal information is that held by the personnel department in relation to individuals.

Recording Decisions:

The Freedom of Information Act confers the right to obtain the reasons for decisions affecting oneself, reasons for decisions should be recorded against agreed criteria in accordance with policies.

Information Commissioner

Act and Regulations

For copies go to Information Commissioner site or, to Legislation page on this site

Freedom of Information Act 1997 Freedon of Information Act 1997 (section 47(3)) Regulations 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Local Authority and Health Board) (Commencement) Order, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 6(9)) Regulations), 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Sections 6(4), 6(5), and 6(6)) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 17) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 18) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 25(6)) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 28(1)) (Amendment) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 47(3)) (Amendment) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (First schedule) (Amendment) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Third schedule)(Amendment) Regulations, 1998

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 6(4)(b)) Regulations, 1999

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Section 28(6)) Regulations, 1999

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (First Schedule) (Amendment) Regulations, 1999

Rules of the Superior Courts (No. 3) (Freedom of Information Act, 1997), 1998.

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (prescribed bodies) Regulations, 1999

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Prescribed Bodies) Regulations, 2000

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Prescribed Bodies)(No.2) Regulations, 2000

Freedom of Information Act, 1997 (Prescribed Bodies) (No. 3) Regulations, 2000

Faculty of Law UCC

United Kingdom

The Campaign for Freedom of Information

United States

National Freedom of Information Coalition
Freedom of Information services
F O I A Resources
Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Centre

Resources on Freedom of Information Issues

Australia

Information Commissioner Queensland


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