The new Freedom of Information Act came into force on 14 October 2014.  It provides for the commitments in relation to freedom of information contained in the Programme for Government by removing the main substantive restrictions in access to official information introduced in 2003, extending FOI to all public bodies unless specifically exempt in whole or in part and providing a framework for the extension of FOI to non-public bodies in receipt of significant funding from the Exchequer.  The legislation also provided an opportunity for a necessary consolidation modernisation and updating of the legislation.  The Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 are repealed under the new Act.

The new Act applies to all public bodies that conform to the definition of public body in Section 6 of the Act, unless they are specifically exempt or part-exempt under the provisions of Section 42 or Schedule 1 of the Act.  As new public bodies are established, they will automatically be subject to FOI unless they are specifically exempt by order made by the Minister.  In general, bodies that are to be made subject to FOI for the first time under the Act will have 6 months from enactment before FOI is to apply.

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides for a completely new FOI fees regime.  The Ministerial Order establishing the new fees regime (S.I. 531 of 2014) can be found here.  The following is a summary of the new fee structure in respect of non-personal requests:

A key innovation included in the legislation requires public bodies to pre-empt the need for FOI requests by preparing and furnishing publication schemes.  Publication Schemes are regarded as best practice internationally and are intended to promote the proactive publication of information outside of FOI.  The publication schemes will set out in a comprehensive way the information an organisation publishes on its website including details on the body’s role, responsibilities and activities.  The FOI reform legislation is being introduced in tandem with the introduction of a new Code of Practice developed with the assistance of external FOI experts and advocates to improve the operation of Ireland’s FOI regime.

If you have a specific question on Freedom of Information, please visit the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Freedom of Information FAQ page.