Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Acts assert the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals.  

The Freedom of Information Act obliges public bodies to publish information on their activities and to make the information that they hold, including personal information, available to the public.

We are required to respond to requests from the public for information they hold. In most cases, we must give our decision within 4 weeks (20 working days) of receiving a request. We are also required to publish a Publication Scheme and Disclosure Log of FOI Requests and Decisions (see below).

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 can be viewed at: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2013/89/

How do I make a Request under the Freedom of Information Acts?

If 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 Affairs & Governance
Meath County Council
Buvinda House
Dublin Road
Navan, Co. Meath
C15 Y291

or by email to
foi@meathcoco.ie

  • Indicate that the information is being sought under the Freedom of Information Acts.
  • 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 a request will help the Council identify the records you have requested.

  • Where possible, for example, try to indicate a time frame for which you wish to access records (for example, records between December 2017 and February 2018).
  • Include details such as the name of the Department 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.
  • Include any reference numbers you may have.

Please note requests for information or for answers to questions, as opposed to requests for records, are not valid requests under the Act.  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.

Where this arises, the Council will offer to assist you in making a request that can avoid refusal on the grounds mentioned above. Being as specific as possible will reduce the possibility of refusal of your FOI request and may avoid fees being levied (see below charges).

 

What can you ask for?

You can ask for the following records held by Local Authorities, Health Boards, Government Departments and certain public bodies:

  • Any records relating to you personally, whenever created
  • All other records created after 21st of October, 1998 (in the case of Government Department and certain Public Bodies, this date is the 21st of April, 1998).
  • Reasons for decisions made by the Council that affect you.

 

What is a record?

A "record" can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, plans, microfiche, audio-visual etc.

 

Do you have to pay?

There is no FOI request fee but fees may be charged for the cost of photocopying, searching for and retrieving records. However, it is unlikely that search and retrieval charges will be applied for the majority of cases that relate to personal records only.

Charges may apply for

  • search and retrieval of information (€20.00 per hour)
  • photocopying charges (4 cent per sheet)
  • CDs (€10.00 each)

These charges apply only where the costs exceed €100 (approximately 5 hours). If the actual search and retrieval of the records is below this level then you will not be charged.

Where the actual cost of the search and retrieval are above €500 (approximately 25 hours), then you cannot be charged any more than the 25 hours, unless this has been agreed at the commencement of the request.

If the fee is over €700 at the estimation stage  we may decline to process the request unless you are prepared to refine the request to bring the search, retrieval and copying  fees below the limit.

 

When will we make a decision?

The Act requires that we 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.

 

What information is exempt?

Certain types of information are exempt under the Act. Examples would include information obtained in confidence, commercially sensitive information, personal details (other than to the person to whom they relate), deliberations of public bodies, law enforcement, public safety, functions and negotiations of public bodies.

 

Can I appeal the decision?

Virtually all decisions to refuse release of records may be appealed.  Other decisions in relation to deferral of access to records, fees charged, forms of access etc., may also be appealed. 

1. Internal Review

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. Your correspondence should include a fee of €30 for processing the appeal.  A reduced fee of €10 applies if you are a medical card holder or a dependent of a medical card holder.

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.

 

2.  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 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,
Dublin 2,
D02 W773.

Website: https://www.oic.ie/ 

Email:  info@oic.ie     

Telephone:  01 639 5689

 

Do you need to make a Freedom of Information request for all types of information?

No. We are committed to making information available to the public through publications, annual report, minutes of Council meetings etc.

Information is also made available through Planning and Environment Legislation. If the information you request is already available generally or available at a fee then your request may be refused under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Freedom of Information Act provides an additional source of information by facilitating access to records not already routinely available.

 

Freedom of Information Officer

You may also contact the Council's Freedom of Information Officer on 046 9097000 or at the address above for any further information regarding your rights of access to information under the Act.

 

Publication Scheme

The Council has produced a Publication Scheme under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 which includes:

  • general information about Meath County Council,
  • information on functions and services provided,
  • information on decision making procedures,
  • financial information,
  • procurement information, and
  • other miscellaneous information.

FOI Disclosure Logs

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 requires us to publish a disclosure log which contains details of the types of requests received under FOI and the decisions made in response to those requests.

Disclosures are listed in order of the date the request was received. Please note that, for privacy reasons, identifying information such as the name of the requester is not included in the disclosure log.