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Freedom of Information Act to be reviewed by government

The Act will be reviewed for the first time since being updated in 2014.

File photo
File photo

THE FREEDOM OF Information (FOI) Act is set to be reviewed by the government, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has announced.

The Act obliges public bodies to publish information on their activities and to make that information, including personal information, available to citizens. 

McGrath said the upcoming review would draw on input from the public sector, academics, activists, journalists, and the general public.

He also said today that “in general the FOI system is robust and functioning well”.

“While this gives us a solid footing from which to move forward, it is now timely to consider how we might find better ways of achieving transparency in public administration,” he said.

In 2014, an update to the Act removed the €15 application fee for non-personal information requests.

While this has led to an increase in the number of FOI requests made, a senior civil servant told a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform event today that this had placed an increased burden on staff.

The minister said  today that the number of FOI requests made had doubled since the law was updated in 2014, and that 80% of requests had been granted in full or in part.

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Today’s announcement also comes weeks after McGrath told the Oireachtas that no review of the Act was planned.

In response to a Parliamentary Question by Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, the minister said that “no issues have been noted as requiring an urgent amendment to the 2014 Act”.

“However, my Department will continue to monitor the position and will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the FOI system continues to operate effectively and to deliver on its aims of openness, transparency and accountability of public bodies,” he added.

- Contains reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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