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The Information Commissioner

FOI Acts 1997/2003

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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
 

WHAT IS THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT?

The Freedom of Information Acts (1997 & 2003) were enacted to produce a more transparent and accountable culture of government in Ireland. Any Irish citizen can request personal information held by any public body, and in cases where this is inaccurate can demand that it be changed. Citizens can also request a broad range of administrative and financial information from government departments and state-funded organisations, with the exception of a number of categories of sensitive material listed in the act.

WHAT BODIES ARE COVERED UNDER FOI?

Nearly all bodies which receive government funding are at this stage covered by the Freedom of Information Act, and are therefore required to carry out a number of duties. They must produce Section 15 & 16 reference guides, which list all the records produced by the body, its administrative make-up and its funding arrangements. They are also obliged to produce a stated records management policy, which lists policy in relation to the creation, maintenance and disposition of their physical and electronic records. It is necessary for bodies to produce a retention schedule listing all categories of records created along with stated disposition periods, in accordance with legal requirements. No records can be destroyed unless in accordance with this policy.
FOI legislation applies not only to paper-based documents, but also to email and electronically created and stored documents, such as databases. Private companies need to be aware that any documents submitted to Public Bodies will be in the public domain and may be available to their competitors through FOI requests. There is however provision in the terms of the Act for companies to highlight areas of any documentation supplied to Public Bodies as "commercially sensitive", which means the company will have to be consulted prior to the documents' release.

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