In November, 2002, regulations were signed into law providing for the extension of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 1997 to the Irish Greyhound Board.
The FOI Act establishes three statutory rights:
- A right for each person to access information held by public bodies;
- A right for each person to have official information relating to himself/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- A right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself.
What is the purpose of the Act?
The Act is designed to provide a right of access to information held by public bodies to the greatest extent possible.
However, the Act by making certain exceptions, seeks to achieve a balance between this right of access on the one hand, and on the other, the right to privacy and in some cases the public interest in maintaining confidentiality.
How does it work?
The Act requires public bodies to respond to requests from the public for information they hold. Generally public bodies must give a decision on a request within four weeks. Staff of public bodies must also assist members of the public seeking access to information.
The Act requires each public body to produce reference manuals setting out the structure of the organisation, the services provided and the arrangements in place for providing access to information (commonly known as section 15 Manuals). In addition a manual setting out rules, guidelines and practices used in decision making must be provided (section 16 Manuals). These manuals will be available on this website.
How can a request be made?
Requests must be:
- In writing
- Addressed to The Freedom of Information Unit, Irish Greyhound Board, 104 Henry Street, Limerick
- State that the request is made under the FOI Act
- Identify clearly the records/information sought
- Specify the manner of access sought i.e. copy of record(s) or opportunity to view record
Staff of the Irish Greyhound Board must assist the requester in formulating the request to comply with the requirements of the Act.
Proof of identity will be sought before access to personal information is granted.
Assistance for members of the public with special needs can be provided upon request.
An acknowledgement of a request must be issued within two weeks and a decision will generally be granted within four weeks of receipt of request.
Can I get access to any information that I seek?
Any official information can be sought under the Act. However, in certain circumstances it will be necessary to exempt information from release. Sections 19-32 of the Act outline exemptions which have to be considered. Key exemptions include:
- Personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request)
- Information supplied in confidence
- Law enforcement and public safety
- Commercially sensitive information
- Deliberations of public bodies
- Functions and negotiations of public bodies
While the Irish Greyhound Board will seek to protect the privacy of individuals and information supplied in confidence, in certain circumstances it may be in the public interest to release such information.
Is there a charge for accessing information under the FOI Act?
In relation to personal information, a photocopying charge may apply.
Where non-personal information is provided, search and retrieval charges in addition to copying charges will usually apply.
The FOI Act provides for fees as follows:
- €21.00 per hour as a search and retrieval fee.
- €0.04 per sheet for a photocopy
- €0.51 for a three and a half inch computer diskette containing copy documents
- €10.18 for a CD-ROM containing copy documents
A deposit may be payable where the total fee is likely to exceed €50.91. In these circumstances, every effort will be made to assist the requester to reduce or eliminate the amount of the fees payable.
What can I do if I am unhappy at the outcome of my request?
- You are entitled to have the decision reviewed by an Internal Reviewer at the Irish Greyhound Board.
- An external review procedure to the Information Commissioner is available following the internal review process.
- Appeal to the High Court on a point of law only is available following review by the Information Commissioner.
You will be advised of the review procedures by the Decision Maker handling your request.
Is it always necessary to make an FOI request to get information from public bodies?
No. You may be able to obtain the information you require by other means. You should enquire with the Irish Greyhound Board in the first instance if the information can be provided to you outside the terms of the FOI Act.
The implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 is a landmark on the road to greater openness in the areas of decision making and access to information.