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Freedom of Information

Some frequently asked questions:

What is Freedom of Information?
How does FOI work?
What records can be requested?
Can I get access to any information that I seek under the FOI Acts?
How do I make a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine?
How much will it cost?
How soon can a person making a request for records expect a reply?
What if I am not satisfied with the decision on my FOI request?
What if I am not satisfied with the decision on internal review?
Can I get help in making a request?
Where can I get more information?

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

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How does FOI work?

The Acts 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 Acts to mean 5 consecutive weekdays excluding Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.

Public bodies must also produce reference books (known as FOI Section 15 and Section 16 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 Agriculture, Food and the Marine are available from the Freedom of Information Unit or the website at http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/customerservice/freedomofinformationfoi/

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What records can be requested?

Under the Acts, the following records may be accessible:

  • All records created after the Act commenced on 21st April 1998
  • All personal records regardless of when they were created
  • All staff records created after 21st April 1995. Staff records created before 21st April 1995 may, in certain circumstances, also be accessible
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Can I get access to any information that I seek under the FOI Acts?

Any official information held by public bodies can be sought under the FOI Acts. 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 Acts, 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)
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How do I make a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine?

A: You should send a request, in writing, to the

Freedom of Information Unit, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
Grattan House,
Grattan Business Centre,
Dublin Road,
Portlaoise,
Co. Laois.
Tel: +353 (57) 869 4327
Fax: +353 (57) 869 4387
E-mail: foi@agriculture.gov.ie

Your request should include the following:

  • A statement that the request is being made under the FOI Acts;
  • As much information as possible about the records being sought;
  • In what format you wish to receive any records released (e.g. photocopies)
  • The appropriate fee
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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.

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 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

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.

A full list of fees is available on request.

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

Under the Acts, 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 Acts to mean 5 consecutive weekdays, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.

There are some limited situations under the FOI Acts, 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.

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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 Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Grattan House, Grattan Business Centre, Dublin Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, seeking an internal review of the matter. A fee of €75 (€25 for medical card holders) 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.

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What if I am not satisfied with the decision on internal review?

You may appeal the decision within six months by writing to the Information Commissioner. If you make an appeal the Information Commissioner will fully investigate and consider the matter and issue a fresh decision. All appeals should be addressed to:

The Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Dublin 2. 

Tel: +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 22 30 30
Fax: +353 (1) 639 5674
E-mail: info@oic.ie

A fee of €150 may apply for such an application.

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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 Acts.

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Where can I get more information?

Further information can be obtained from:

The Department's Freedom of Information Unit,
Grattan House,
Grattan Business Centre,
Dublin Road,
Portlaoise,
Co. Laois.
Tel: +353 (57) 869 4327
Fax: +353 (57) 869 4387
E-mail: foi@agriculture.gov.ie

The Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2
Tel:  +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 253 238
Fax: +353 (91) 6395674
E-mail: info@oic.gov.ie

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
Central Policy Unit,
Floor 3,
7-9 Merrion Row,
Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (1) 631 8258
Fax: +353 (1) 604 5750
E-mail: cpu@per.gov.ie

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