Freedom of Information requests give you the right to obtain copies of records that are held by public bodies in the State. The piece also covered questions such as why someone would want to do this, what your rights are under the Freedom of Information Act, and how they differ to Data Subject Access Requests.
With these fundamentals covered, we will now look at 5 key points to be aware of when making a FOI request to a public body in Ireland. Although this is not an exhaustive list of the process, we have identified these points as being the most important where such requests are concerned.
1. Check the Website
Prior to making the FOI request, you should first check the specific website of the body that you are applying to to see if the information is already available. Many FOI bodies will already have such information publicly available on their website, saving you the time and hassle of having to submit a request in the first place.
2. Check for an FOI Form
If the information you are looking for is not readily available on the website and you wish to proceed with making an FOI request, check to see if there is an FOI form on the site.
Although it is not a requirement to use an FOI form, it is recommended to still check for one as it can make the process easier depending on the body that you are applying to for the information.
3. Submit the Request in Writing
In cases where there is no FOI form available to use, your FOI request must be made in writing, whether with a pen and paper or by email.
Be as specific as you can in your request, as any ambiguity could complicate the procedure and may delay your access to the information.
4. Include FOI Act Statement
When writing your request, be sure to include that you are making it under the Freedom of Information Act 2014. Without this statement, it is possible that your request may be ignored or that you may be asked to re-submit the request.
Acknowledgement of your request must be provided to you by the public within 2 weeks of submission. Although the body can give you the information within a 4-week timeframe in most cases, they may request additional time if the request is particularly large or will require further searching on their end.
If the body is seeking an extension, they must notify you of this in writing and cannot extend the period beyond an additional 4 weeks.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.*