O'Reilly calls for expanded FOI Act

Wed, May 30, 2012, 01:00

Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has urged the Government to extend the remit of the Freedom of Information Act under which the public can have access to information about State bodies.

At the launch of her annual report for 2011 this morning, Ms O’Reilly said she looked forward to the publication of new legislation promised in the Programme for Government to restore information legislation to “its pre-2003 state”.

Amendments to the Freedom of Information Acts in 2003 introduced additional restrictions on public access to certain information held by public bodies.

Ms O’Reilly said she would be concerned if the new legislation was not under way by the end of the year.

Government parties had “traded on it” being introduced in the run-up to the election as part of a plan for greater transparency. The “acid test” would be if the legislation was comprehensive, and included more public bodies such as the National Asset Management Agency, the Garda and the National Treasury Management Agency.

The previous government had managed to amend the FOI acts “in jig time”, she said. The current Government had “talked the talk” and now needed to “walk the walk”.

The annual report showed over 16,500 applications had been made to public bodies under the FOI acts, up 8 per cent on 2010. Requests to the Department of Social Protection had gone up by 95 per cent on 2009.

Over 12,500 requests were for personal information and requests from journalists fell from 14 per cent in 2010 to 10 per cent last year.