03/07/15

Freedom of Information

WHAT IS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION – FOI?

The new Freedom of Information Act 2014 came into effect on 14th October 2014.

The Freedom of Information Acts 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 of individuals.

The Act established three new statutory rights:

  • A legal right for each person to access information held by public bodies;
  • A legal right for each person to have official information relating to himself or herself amended when it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading; and
  • A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself.

Under the Freedom of Information Acts, everyone is entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available.  You have a right to request:

  • Access to records held by this Department;
  • Correction of personal information held by the Department concerning yourself wherever it is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading;
  • Access to reasons for decisions made by the Department directly affecting you.

The following categories of records come within the scope of the Acts:

  • All records relating to personal information held by the Department irrespective of when created;
  • All other records created after 21st April 1998, which is the commencement date of the Freedom of Information Act; and
  • All other records necessary for the understanding of a current record.

HOW DO I MAKE A REQUEST UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACTS?

If you wish to seek access to information within the Department using the Freedom of Information Acts you will need to:

  • Make your request in writing or via email.
  • Indicate that the information is being sought under the Freedom of Information Acts.
  • Be as clear and specific as possible in making your request and provide as much information as possible to enable the Department to identify the records that you require.
  • If you would like to receive access to the information/records requested in a particular format, (e.g. photocopies, electronically etc), please mention this when submitting your request.
  • Include a daytime telephone number or email address and your postal address to help us to contact you if any queries arise in relation to your request.
  • Requests should be posted or emailed to the FOI Unit of this Department (contact details at bottom of page).

Please note that the €15 initial application fee was abolished on 14th October 2014, when the new Freedom of Information Act 2014 was enacted.

If you are having difficulty in identifying the precise records that you require, the staff of the Department will be happy to help you.

The Department will acknowledge receipt of your request in writing within 10 working days.  The acknowledgement letter will also provide you with the name and contact details of the person who will be making the decision in relation to your request and will advise you when you can expect to receive this decision.

WHAT FEES ARE PAYABLE IN RELATION TO MY REQUEST?

Fees may be charged for search, retrieval and copying of the records requested.  This process involves two stages:

  1. Locating the broad set of records in which those requested might be found.
  2. Identifying, extracting and assembling the particular records sought for examination.

Fees for the estimated cost of searching for and retrieving records and copying the records can only be charged with respect to records being released.  €20 is charged for each hour spent searching for and retrieving records and €0.04 is charged per sheet for a photocopy of the records released.

Bands for estimating search & retrieval (€20 per hour) and photocopying fees (€0.04 per sheet) :

Hours Estimate Action
Less than 5 €100 or less No fees can be charged for search & retrieval or copying
Between 5 and 25 €101 – €500 Search & retrieval and copying fees apply
Between 25 and 35 €501 – €700 No more than €500 can be charged for search & retrieval or copying
More than 35 More than €700 The decision maker will contact the requester to ask him/her to refine/amend the request to ensure that the search & retrieval & coping charges are below €700. If the requester refuses to refine/amend the request then the request can be refused under Section 27 (12)(iii)

In cases where search and retrieval fees apply, we are obliged to charge a deposit of at least 20% of the estimate to the requester.

WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM UNHAPPY WITH THE DEPARTMENT’S DECISION?

The Freedom of Information Acts set out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties.  Where this Department invokes these provisions to withhold records, the requester will be advised.  Virtually all decisions to refuse release of records may be appealed.  Other decisions in relation to deferral of access to records, fees charged, forms of access etc., may also be appealed.

  1. 1.      Internal Review

You may seek an internal review of the Department’s initial decision in relation to your request if:

  • You are dissatisfied with the initial response received;
  • You have not received a reply within 4 weeks of your initial application.  This is deemed to be a refusal of your request and allows you to proceed to request an internal review.

The internal review will be carried out by an official at a higher grade than the original decision maker and who was not involved in the original decision making process.  The Department must complete its internal review of the original decision within 15 working days of receipt of the request for an internal review.

To submit your internal review request, you need to write to the FOI Unit by email to foi@ahg.gov.ie or by post to the FOI Unit, Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare St, Dublin 2 referring to your FOI request. You must make your appeal within 20 working days of the date that the decision letter was issued to you (the making of a late appeal may be permitted in appropriate circumstances). An application fee of €30 (€10 if you are covered by a medical card) is required before the processing of an internal review can begin.  This fee can be paid by electronic funds transfer (EFT) and our bank account details will be listed in all decision letters.

An internal review may affirm, vary or annul the original decision in relation to a request.  The internal review process must be completed before an appeal can be submitted to the Information Commissioner

  1. 2.      Review by the Information Commissioner

If you are still dissatisfied following completion of the internal review, you may also seek an independent review of the Department’s decision from the Information Commissioner.  Furthermore, if you have not received a reply from the Department to your application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Commissioner.Appeals should be made directly to the Information Commissioner (details provided below). The fee for appeals to the Information Commissioner is €50 (€15 for medical card holders and their dependants).

Office of the Information Commissioner

18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2

Lo-Call:           1890 223 030

Email:              info@oic.ie

Tel:                  01 639 5689

Fax:                 01 639 5674

 

PUBLICATION OF FOI REQUESTS RECEIVED IN THE DEPARTMENT OF CULTURE, HERITAGE AND THE GAELTACHT

Logs of all requests submitted to this Department under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts since 1 June 2011 are available on the below link.

Freedom of Information Request Logs

These logs provide the following information in relation to each request received:

  1. The reference Number assigned to the request by the Department;
  2. The date on which the request was received in the Freedom of Information Unit of the Department;
  3. The category of the person making the request, e.g. whether they are a journalist, interest group or company or an individual. This includes non-personal FOI requests only;
  4. A summary of the information or records requested;
  5. The date on which the Department’s decision was issued to the applicant;
  6. A summary of that decision, e.g. whether the request was granted in full, part granted, refused or withdrawn and dealt with outside of the Freedom of Information Acts.

The table will be updated regularly.   If you have any queries in relation to any of these requests or the operation of the Freedom of Information Acts in this Department generally, please feel free to contact the FOI Unit (details below) and we will be happy to help you.

Address:         Freedom of Information Unit

Corporate Governance Division

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

23 Kildare Street, Dublin 2

Email:              foi@ahg.gov.ie

Tel:                  01 631 3829/631 3830

 

 

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

If you would like to submit a request under the FOI Acts to this Department or if you have any general queries in relation to the operation of the Freedom of Information Acts in this Department generally, please feel free to contact the FOI Unit (details below) and we will be happy to help you.

Address:         Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
FOI Unit/Corporate Governance Division 
Room 303
23 Kildare Street, Dublin 2
 
Email:             foi@ahg.gov.ie
 Tel:                 01 631 3830/631 3829

Further information in relation to the Freedom of Information Acts can also be found on the website, www.foi.gov.ie, which is maintained by the Freedom of Information Central Policy Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

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Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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