An overview of the Freedom of 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On 14 October 2014, the Freedom of Information Act 2014 came into effect and repealed the 1997 and 2003 Acts.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.
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.
Making a Request
The request must be in writing to the :
Freedom of Information Officer, St Margaret’s, No 20 Priory Hall, Stillorgan Road, Blackrock, Co Dublin A94VW58. Phone: 00353 1 217 5400 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
You must state that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act and what records you are seeking, supply as much detail as possible.
You must state the manner in which access is sought, e.g. inspect the originals, obtain photocopies, hear/view audio-visual record, obtain a copy of a computer disk or other electronic device, etc.
You must supply proof of identity in the case of personal information – acceptable forms of identity include:
- Certified copy of current valid signed Passport;
- Certified copy of full Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland/UK driving licence or provisional licence;
- Certified copy of Garda Identification (ML10) form and photograph;
- Certified copy of National Identity Card – must show photograph;
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.
Section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for fees and charges. The current application fees are:
- Initial request for a record – Free
- Internal review – €30 (reduced rate – €10*)
- Review by Information Commissioner – €50 (reduced rate – €15*)
- Application for amendment containing incorrect information – Free
- Application for reasons for a decision affecting individual – Free
* 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.
No fees apply where the request involves access to your personal records.
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. For costs exceeding €100, full fees apply. Maximum charge €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.
- Search and retrieval of records – €20 per hour
- Photocopying – 4 cent per sheet
- CD-ROM containing copy of documents – €10
Freedom of Information guidelines for contractors/suppliers
The Freedom of Information Act 2014 applies to all information held by public bodies. It also applies to specifically designated private companies that perform public functions and, in a limited capacity to private companies that contract to public bodies. The legislation gives anyone anywhere in the world the legal right to request and receive a copy of recorded information held by, or on behalf of, a public authority. The emphasis is always on disclosure of the information rather than withholding it.
All of the information that St. Margaret’s holds about your company is covered by Freedom of Information (FOI), as is any information that you hold on our behalf.
If a contractor is employed to undertake a service on our behalf the information they produce in relation to that service is subject to FOI legislation. The responsibility for compliance with the legislation remains with the public authority.
If St. Margaret’s receives a request for information that is held by a contractor, the contractor must assist St. Margaret’s and provide them with the information within 10 days of St. Margaret’s requesting it from them.
A contractor or other agency employed to undertake services on our behalf has no obligation to respond to a FOI request received by them if FOI does not apply to their organisation. If the contractor receives a request for the information they manage on our behalf they must either inform the applicant to direct their request to St. Margaret’s or transfer the request to us. Contractors should not in any case disclose information held on our behalf without our explicit agreement.
If St. Margaret’s receives a request for information held about any of its contractors all such information will be considered for release under the FOI Act. That does not mean it will automatically be released if it is requested as one of the exemptions may apply. Wherever possible we will seek the contractor’s views before making a decision on disclosure of information that might affect their rights or interests. Although the contractor’s representations will be taken into account the law makes St. Margaret’s Service’s alone responsible for making the final decision regarding disclosure.
For any queries or comments please contact the Freedom of Information Officer, St Margaret’s on the contact details below.
Phone: 00353 1 217 5400