Freedom of Information (FOI)
The FOI Act 2014 (enacted on 14 October 2014 and which repeals the two previous FOI Acts of 1997 and 2003), provides that every person has the following legal rights:
- the right to access official records held by Government Departments or other public bodies listed in, or prescribed under, the Act;
- the right to have personal information held concerning him or her corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies which affect him or her.
These rights allow people to seek access to personal information held concerning themselves, no matter when the information was created, and to other records created after 21 April, 1998.
A body becoming an FOI Body for the first time under the 2014 Act after enactment, or if by Order, not more than 12 months after enactment.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform official FOI Website (link is external) manages the relevant FOI informational material, providing updates on an ongoing basis.
Question 1: What information is available to the Public?
Any official information held by public bodies can be sought under the Act. However, to allow for the proper conduct of Government business, including taking account of the interests of third parties dealing with Government, the Act provides that in some circumstances certain types of information are exempt from release, including records of:
- Government meetings
- Law enforcement and security
- Confidential and commercially sensitive information
- Matters included in certain enactments for which non-disclosure of records is permitted. Section 18 of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act, 2000 states that “(1) A person who discloses confidential information obtained by the person in his or her capacity as Chairperson or other member of the Board, secretary of the Board or consultant, adviser or investigator engaged by the Board, unless the person is authorised by the Board to do so or as otherwise authorised by law, shall be guilty of an offence.”
“(2) In subsection (1), but subject to the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, “confidential information” includes information, or information of a particular class or description of information, expressed by the Board to be confidential.”
SI 276 of 2011 states that “10. (1) Without prejudice to the Data Protection Act 1988 (No. 25 of 1988) the following shall be confidential:
All witness evidence and other statements, accounts and notes taken or received by the Board in the course of the safety investigation;
Records revealing the identity of persons who have given evidence in the context of the safety investigation;
Information relating to persons involved in a casualty or incident that is of a particularly sensitive and private nature, including information concerning their health;
(2) The High Court, on application to it by an interested party, may disclose matters referred to in paragraph (1) where there is an overriding public interest to do so.”
Question 2: How do I make a Request under FOI?
Requests should be submitted in writing to:
FOI Unit, Marine Casualty Investigation Board, Leeson Lane, Dublin 2.
Tel. 01 – 6783485; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question 3: Who should I contact?
Secretary to the Board can be contacted by telephone at 01 6783486.
Question 4: Will I be charged for making a request?
Fees apply in respect of the time required to search for, retrieve and copy records for release. Fees are unlikely to arise if your request is for personal information. A once-off fee applies if a requester seeks a review of a Decision both by the Board and by the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Payments to the MCIB should be made by the following methods:
(i) for business users, by electronic means
(ii) for other users, by electronic means, bank draft, money postal order or personal cheque. All payments should be made payable to "Marine Casualty Investigation Board".
The following summarises the main fees applicable:
A. Non-personal Information
||Detail for Charging
||Search and Retrieval
||Rate is €20 per hour
Rate is €0.04 per copy
Rate is €10.00 for a CD-ROM
||Search & Retrieval and Copying (2+3)2
||(a) ≤ €100
|| ≤ 5
||Costs of up to €100 are not charged.
||(b) ˃ €100 ≤ €500
||Actual amount, between €100 and €500 will be charged.
||(c) ˃ €500 ≤ €700
Regardless of actual amount only €500 will be charged
(d) ˃ €700
||If not refined to ˂ €700, full cost charged; or, Request may be refused
Fee is €10 for medical card holders & dependants; payable to Marine Casualty Investigation Board.
||Appeal to OIC3
||Fee is €15 for medical card holders and dependants; payable to OIC
(1) Hours required to carry out Search & Retrieval and Copying are initially estimated. However, when charging, only hours required to manage records for release are considered. The hours indicated in this column are for guidance as copying costs will also affect estimations.
(2) Search, Retrieval & Copying. Total costs for SR&C are taken together to estimate the total charge for each Request and the ability to complete it. The actual charge will only be in respect of records finally released.
(3) Office of Information Commissioner
B. Personal Information
Normally, fees would not be charged for search, retrieval and copying of records where the record or records concerned contains or contain only personal information relating to the applicant. For a significant number of records a charge may apply, with consideration of the means of the requester.
Question 5: What can I do if I am not happy with a decision?
Requesters who are not satisfied with the response received, or who feel that a proposed charge for search/retrieval or copying of records is excessive, can seek a review by the Board. Such a review will be carried out by an officer more senior than the Decision Maker and who can amend the original decision. Contact details are the same as for making an initial request.
If not satisfied with the result of an internal review a requester may seek a further review by the Information Commissioner whose contact details are as follows:
Office of the Information Commissioner, 18 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin 2, Phone: (01) 6395689 or 1890 223030 Email: email@example.com (link sends e-mail)
Question 6: Do I need to make a FOI request to get any information from public bodies?
No. It is a policy of the Board to make as much information as possible available outside of the Freedom of Information process. The FOI Act 2014 provides that the Board will put in place a Publication Scheme by which it will publish (on the Board’s website) significant information concerning its functions and activities. An Order for this will be made setting a required date not more than 12 months after the date of enactment.