The Freedom of Information Act, 1997 came into effect for Government Departments on the 21st of April 1998 and for Local Authorities and Health Boards on the 21st of October 1998.
What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
The Freedom of Information Act, 1997 came into effect for local authorities on 21st October, 1998. It gives you the right to access records held by Government Departments, (since 21st April, 1998), local authorities and other public bodies. No reason need be given as to why you want to see any record. The County Council must give an explanation if you are not given what you ask for. A decision on your application must normally be made within 4 weeks.
Do you have to use FOI to get information?
No. The Council regularly makes information available through information leaflets, publications and in response to enquiries. This will continue and you should, in the first instance, check if information is routinely available. The FOI Act procedures facilitate access to information, other than that which is exempt, not routinely available.What can you ask for?
The Act gives right of access (subject to certain exemptions) to:
- Records created after 21st October, 1998;
- Records created before that date if needed to understand post October 21st records;
- Personal records regardless of when created;
- In the case of staff, personnel records created since 21st October 1995.
A "record" can be any document, whether or paper, computer, printout, map, plan, microfilm, microfiche, audio-visual material, etc.
The Act also establishes:
- A legal right for each person to have official information relating to him/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself
If you are not satisfied with the decision on a FOI request you may ask the Council for an 'internal review' of the decision. A more senior officer will then review your application. You should be notified of the outcome of the review within 3 weeks. If dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal review you have a right to ask for a review by:
The Information Commissioner, 18, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.
What will it cost?
You may be charged for the time spent by the Council in finding the records sought. There may also be a charge for photocopying costs. There will generally be no copying charge for personal information, unless a large volume of photocopying is involved.
The Act makes specific provisions for exempting certain records from access. Among the exemptions are:
- Confidential material
- Commercially sensitive material
- Personal Details (other than to the person to whom they relate).
Requests under the FOI Act.
Requests should be made in writing (the application form overleaf may be used) to the County Secretary at the address below and should:
- Specify that they are being made under the FOI Act and
- Be clear and specific enough to enable the Council identify the records being requested.
The Council will be happy to assist you in making your request.