What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides a right for each person to:
- seek access to records held by a body to which the FOI Act applies – known as an FOI body;
- have official records relating to himself/herself amended where incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- seek to obtain a record of reasons for decisions affecting himself/herself.
What can I ask for?
The FOI Act is designed to obtain access to records of an organisation. You can ask for any of the following.
- Records relating to you personally, whenever created.
- All other records created after the effective date (21st Oct 1998 for local authorities).
- Reasons for decisions made by the Council that affect you.
However, in order to allow FOI bodies to properly conduct their business, it will sometimes be necessary to exempt from release, certain types (or parts of) records in some circumstances. These are set out in the Act. Among the key exemptions are records relating to:
- law enforcement, security and legal advice
- confidential and/or commercially sensitive information
- personal information (other than information relating to the person making the request)
- certain functions and negotiations of FOI Bodies at a point in time
- there are also certain restricted records that the Council must not release under the Act.
A "record" can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, plans, microfiche, audio-visual etc.
How to and when to apply?
It is important to note that you may not need to use the FOI Act to request information from an FOI body. A large amount of material is already available to the public through websites, information leaflets, publications and responses to enquiries.
If the records you require are not readily available by other means, and you wish to seek access to information using the Freedom of Information Acts you will need to:
- Make your request in writing to:
Freedom of Information Officer
Corporate Services Department
Kildare County Council
Áras Cill Dara
Naas, County Kildare
or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Indicate that the information is being sought under the Freedom of Information Acts, forms are available here.
- Be as clear and specific as possible in making your request and provide as much information as possible to enable the Council to identify the records that you require.
- If you would like to receive access to the information/records requested in a particular format, (e.g. photocopies, electronically etc), please mention this when submitting your request.
- Include a daytime telephone number or email address and your postal address to help us to contact you if any queries arise in relation to your request.
- A valid request must satisfy these requirements. In cases where we receive requests for records that do not satisfy the above criteria, we are obliged to consult you to amend the request.
Broad or non-specific requests:
Being as specific as you can when making the request makes it more likely that the request will be accepted, as it helps the Council to more easily identify the records you require. Where possible, for example, try to indicate a time period for which you wish to access records (for example, records between December 2017 and February 2018) or other specific information to assist retrieval of records, such as the name of the Department or Section you understand may hold the records you are interested in accessing. In some cases you may even be able to name the specific records that you wish to access. Requests need to be for records, questions may not be a valid request.
Where an applicant fails to be specific in their request with the result that the request is voluminous or excessively broad, the Council may refuse it under Section 15(1)(c) of the Act on the grounds that the request would, by reason of the number or nature of the records concerned cause a substantial and unreasonable interference with or disruption of work of a Section of the Council.
Where this arises the Council will offer to assist the requester in making a request that can avoid refusal on the ground above.
However, being as specific as possible will reduce the possibility of refusal of the FOI request or may avoid or reduce charges to retrieve information, see below on charges.
Do I have to pay for getting information under FOI?
Making an FOI Request:
There is no longer any fee for making an FOI request to a Local Authority.
Charges for processing requests involving significant workloads:
The Council is obliged to apply charges where the cost of retrieving records is significant.
When the request is for personal information there are no charges unless there are a significant number of records. In the case of requests which relate to non-personal information charges may be applied for search retrieval and copying, depending on volumes involved. The relevant section of the Act here is Section 27(2) and these charges relate to time spent on what is referred to as Search, Retrieval and Copying (SRC):
(a) Determining whether it holds the information requested;
(b) Locating the information or documents containing the information
(c) Retrieving such information or documents
(d) Extracting the information from the files, documents, electronic or other
information sources containing both it and material not relevant to the request,
(e) Preparing a schedule specifying the records for consideration for release.
In relation to such charges there is a minimum threshold of €101 below which no search, retrieval and copying charge can be charged. Once the charge reaches the €101 full charges apply.
There is a cap on the amount that can be charged and this is set at €500.
There is also a further upper ceiling limit on estimated search, retrieval and copying charge set at €700 above which a body can refuse to process a request unless the requester is prepared to refine the request.
The Council encourages requesters to make specific and focused requests so as to more easily identify records of interest and reduce or avoid charges. Where applicants do not make requests of this nature charges will be applicable or the request may be refused, in certain circumstances.
Fees for review or appeal:
There are fees which apply for an internal review under Section 22 and for appeals to the Office of the Information Commissioner.
|Fee Type||Standard Fee||Medical Card holders|
|Internal Review for Non - Personal Information||€30||€10|
|Seeking an Internal Review for Personal Information||No Charge||No charge|
|Review by Information Commissioner||€50||€15|
More information on fees is here
What timelines are generally involved in an FOI Decision?
The Act requires that Kildare County Council must:
- Acknowledge receipt of the request within 10 working days
- Make a decision on the request within 20 working days*
*There are certain circumstances where the period for a final decision may be longer than the normal 20 working days. If this occurs with your request we will promptly advise you in writing.
If a third party is involved, there may be another 3 weeks before you receive a response.
More information on time periods under the Act are available here
Can I seek a review or appeal a decision?
You may ask for an internal review of our initial decision in relation to your request if:
- You are dissatisfied with the initial response received;
- You have not received a reply within 20 working days of your initial application. This is deemed to be a refusal of your request and allows you to proceed to request an internal review.
You must make your appeal within 20 working days of the date that the decision letter was issued to you. An application fee of €30 (€10 if you are covered by a medical card) is required before the processing of an internal review can begin.
The internal review will be carried out by an official at a higher grade than the original decision maker and who was not involved in the original decision making process. We must complete our internal review of the original decision within 15 working days of receipt of the request for an internal review.
An internal review may affirm, vary or annul the original decision in relation to a request. The internal review process must be completed before an appeal can be submitted to the Information Commissioner.
Review by the Information Commissioner
If you are still dissatisfied following completion of the internal review, you may also seek an independent review of our decision from the Information Commissioner.
If you have not received a reply from us to your application for internal review within 15 working days, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Commissioner.
Appeals should be made directly to the Information Commissioner (details provided below).
The fee for appeals to the Information Commissioner is €50 (€15 for medical card holders and their dependants).
Office of the Information Commissioner
6 Earlsfort Terrace,
Lo-Call: 1890 223 030
Tel: 01 639 5689
Fax: 01 639 5674
Where can you get more information regarding the Freedom of Information Act?
Kildare County Council has published its FOI publication scheme in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2014 - click here
Further information on FOI is available from:
The Freedom of Information Unit,
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
Upper Merrion Street,
Tel: +353 (1) 604 5388
Fax: +353 (1) 639 6281
The Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Tel: +353 (1) 639 5689
Locall: 1890 253 238
Fax: +353 (1) 639 5674
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
Central Policy Unit,
Floor 3, 7-9 Merrion Row,
Tel: 076 100 7345/7332