The Transparency Manifesto: Right to Know publishes discussion document ahead of government review of the Freedom of Information Act

Back in June, Minister Michael McGrath promised that a review of the Freedom of Information Act was to take place.

Given added impetus by the fallout from the controversy over deletion of records during ‘Zapponegate’, this review has now been brought before Cabinet.

Right to Know is publishing this discussion document on some of the areas we believe are most in need of reform.

We do this because of our concerns about any review of information access that would be driven primarily by public bodies themselves and poorly informed ‘cost of FOI’ concerns.

This happened in 2003 and resulted in the gutting of the FOI Act and the introduction of €15 ‘up-front’ fees for requests.

The number of requests being made each year was effectively halved as a result; other restrictions were also introduced.

The abolition of the up-front fee in 2014 by then Minister Brendan Howlin helped restore the act closer to its original form.

Yet problems persist in how FOI operates in Ireland, with widespread non-declaration of records and some public bodies repeatedly failing to meet their obligations.

This is a working document. It is based on our experience as users of the act, and the many emails and messages we receive from the public and the media about their own experiences.

Not everything in it will be possible; there are other problems that we may not have identified here.

It is published to help inform the debate on what kind of Freedom of Information Act Ireland should have … from the perspective of those who make requests.

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