Accessing information under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997

  1. Rights of access to and amendment of records
  2. Making an application under the Freedom of Information Acts
  3. How Freedom of Information applications are dealt with
  4. Fees
  5. Rights of review and appeal

1. Rights of access to and amendment of records

Under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, you are entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available. You have a right to:

The following records come within the scope of the Act:

2. Making an application under the Freedom of Information Act

Requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 should be made in writing. In preparing your request, you should follow these guidelines.

The Department also provides application forms on request. (Download application form)

You do not have to give any reason for wanting access to the record, and no person has the right to demand such reasons from you. However, these reasons may be helpful in focussing the request to identify the relevant records or in highlighting important issues to be considered. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records which you require, the Freedom of Information Unit will be happy to assist you in preparing your request.

Applications under the Freedom of Information Act 1997 should be addressed to:

Freedom of Information Unit, Department of Health and Children, Hawkins House, Hawkins St., Dublin 2.
Telephone : (01) 6354199
Fax: (01) 6353136

3. How Freedom of Information applications are dealt with

The Freedom of Information Act sets down strict time-limits for the processing of your request:

If the Department considers that your request should have been sent to another public body, the request shall be forwarded to that body, and you will be notified that this has happened. This must be done not later than two weeks from the receipt of your request. Your request will then be treated as though you had sent it to the second public body on the date on which it was forwarded by the Department.

If the Department holds some, but not all, of the records you have requested, then you will be sent a letter informing you of this, and supplying the name(s) and contact details of the other bodies from whom you should request those records not held by the Department.

When the Department has completed its work on the request you will receive a letter setting out:

4. Fees

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 provides for search and retrieval fees. The Freedom of Information Act 2003 requires the charging of upfront fees in advance of the processing of requests for access to non-personal records.

Upfront Application Fees

There is no application fee if your request is for personal information only. However, if your request is for a record containing non-personal information, an application fee of €15 (€10 if you are a medical card holder) must accompany your request.

Search and Retrieval and Copying Fees

A fee may be charged for the following:

If the cost of satisfying the request is expected to exceed €50.00, the Department must request a deposit from you. In cases where a deposit is payable, the Department will, if requested, assist in amending your request so as to reduce or eliminate the deposit.

These charges will not apply in certain circumstances:

5. Rights of review and appeal

Internal review

If you are dissatisfied with the initial response received, e.g. refusal of access, form of access, charges etc. you may ask that a more senior official of the Department review the initial decision. This review will be assigned to one of a panel of senior officials. You may also seek such a review if you have not received a reply within four weeks of your initial application as this is deemed to be a refusal of your request. In seeking a review, it will assist the reviewer if you state the reasons for your review request.

Requests for internal review should be submitted in writing to the Freedom of Information Unit within four weeks of the date of the initial decision. Enclose the application fee where appropriate. The Department must complete the review within three weeks.

Review by the Information Commissioner

Following completion of the internal review, you may seek independent review of the decision by the Information Commissioner. You may also appeal to the Information Commissioner if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within three weeks as this is deemed to be a refusal. Enclose the application fee where appropriate.

Appeals, in writing, may be made to the Information Commissioner at the following address:

Office of the Information Commissioner, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2.
Tel : (01) 6395689
Fax: (01) 6395676
E-mail : info@oic.ie