Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information Requests Database

In the interest of transparency and openness, the Department of Foreign Affairs has a policy of posting a summary of Freedom of Information Requests (including, since 07 June 2005, the name of the requester) and the subsequent reply on this website for reference purposes. 
All Freedom of Information requests from the 4th May 2004, other than requests for personal information, are available on the FOI Requests Database . 

Freedom of Information - Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Freedom of Information?

Freedom of Information, or FOI , refers to rights provided to every person under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003. These Acts provide that from 21 April, 1998, every person has the following rights:

  • the right to obtain access to information held by Public Bodies including Government Departments;
  • the right to have personal information held on them corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading; and
  • the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies that affect them.

These rights mean that people can now seek access to personal information held on them - no matter when the information was created - and to other records created after 21 April, 1998. In certain circumstances records created before 21 April, 1998 may be accessible particularly if these records are required to assist in understanding records created after the Act commenced on 21 April, 1998.

How does FOI work?

The Act requires public bodies to respond to requests from the public for information they hold. In most cases, public bodies must give their decision on a request within 4 weeks of receiving it. A week is defined in the Act to mean 5 consecutive weekdays excluding Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Public bodies must also produce reference books (known as FOI Section 15 and Section16 Reference Books) setting out the structure of their organisation, the arrangements in place for providing information and any rules, guidelines or practices they use in reaching decisions that affect the public. Section 15 and Section 16 Reference Books for the Department of Foreign Affairs are available from the Freedom of Information Unit.

Section 15 and Section 16 Reference Book  (an updated version of the Department's Section 15 & 16 Reference Book will be available here shortly).

What records can be requested?

Under the Act, the following records may be accessible:

  • all records created after the Act commenced on 21 April, 1998;
  • all personal records regardless of when they were created;
  • all staff records created after 21 April, 1995. Staff records created before 21 April, 1995 may, in certain circumstances, also be accessible

How do I make an Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Foreign Affairs?

You should send a request, in writing, to the

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Foreign Affairs
76/78 Harcourt Street
Dublin 2.

Tel: +353 (01) 4082835

Your request should include the following: 

  • a statement that the request is being made under the FOI Act;
  • as much information as possible about the records being sought; and
  • in what format you wish to receive any records released (eg photocopies)
    the appropriate fee

How much will it cost?

A standard processing fee (as outlined in the list below) must accompany all applications with the exception of those applications requesting Personal Information.

Please note that if you are claiming a reduced application fee, the request must be accompanied by the Medical Card registration number, issuing Health Board name and your consent to the verification of these details with that Health Board.

Other charges may be applied for the time spent finding records and for any photocopying costs incurred by the Department in providing you with the material requested. Details of these will be notified to you in writing.

FEE LIST

  • Standard processing fee €15 (€10 for medical card holders)
  • Internal review fee €75 (€25 reduced fee for medical card holders
  • Appeal to the Information Commissioner €150 (€50 for medical card holders)
  • €20.95 per hour - search and retrieval
  • €0.04 per sheet for a photocopy

A full list of fees is available on request.

Can I get access to any information that I seek?

The following records come within the scope of the FOI Act:

  • all records relating to personal information held by the Department irrespective of when they were created
  • all records created from the commencement of the FOI Act on 21 April, 1998 . In certain circumstances, records created prior to 21 April, 1998 may be accessible.
  • personnel records of serving staff created from 21st April, 1995 . In certain circumstances, records created prior to 21 April, 1995 may be accessible.

Any official information held by public bodies can be sought under the Act. However, in order to allow Government business to be properly conducted, it may sometimes be necessary to exempt from release certain types of information in some circumstances. These exemptions, which are set out in the Act, include exemptions for records relating to:

  • meetings of the Government
  • law enforcement and security, international relations and matters relating to Northern Ireland,
  • confidential information
  • commercially sensitive information,
  • personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request).

How soon can a person making a request for records expect a reply?

Under the Act, a request for records must be acknowledged within 2 weeks and, in most cases, responded to within 4 weeks. A week is defined in the Act to mean 5 consecutive week-days, excluding Saturdays and public holidays (Sundays are also excluded as they are not considered week-days).

There are some limited situations under the FOI Act which could mean that the making of a decision could take longer than four weeks. If this occurs, you will be notified in writing.

If you have not received a reply within four weeks, you are automatically entitled to consider that the Department has refused to grant your request and you may immediately appeal to this Department for a review on the matter.

What if I am not satisfied with the decision on my FOI request?

You may appeal any decision issued by this Department by writing to:

The Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Foreign Affairs
76/78 Harcourt Street
Dublin 2 

 A fee of €75 may apply for such an appeal.

You should make your appeal within 4 weeks from the date of response (although late appeals may be permitted in certain circumstances). The appeal will involve a complete reconsideration of the matter by a more senior member of staff of the Department and a decision will be communicated to you within 3 weeks

If you are not satisfied with the decision on internal review, you may appeal the decision within six months by writing to the Information Commissioner. If an appeal is made by you, the Information Commissioner will fully investigate and consider the matter and issue a fresh decision. All appeals should be addressed to:-

The Information Commissioner
The Office of the Information Commissioner
18 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2. 

A fee of €150 may be applicable to such an application.

Can I get help in making a request?

Yes. If you require any help the staff of the FOI Unit will be happy to assist you in the formulation of your request. The Unit is also available to provide assistance to persons with a disability to exercise their rights under the FOI Act. The Freedom of Information Officer, can be contacted at:

Freedom of Information Unit
Department of Foreign Affairs
76/78 Harcourt Street Dublin 2
Tel: (+353 1) 408 2835

Email the FoI Unit here.
 

Are there any published materials available?

Further information can be obtained from:

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