Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has defended an amendment to the proposed Freedom of Information Bill which the National Union of Journalists has said will make requests unaffordable.
A subcommittee of the Oireachtas finance committee will begin consideration of the Bill this afternoon.
At committee stage, members will debate a number of new amendments tabled over the weekend by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.
Under the amended Bill, where a request is made up of two or more parts “seeking separate and distinct information” relating to “different functional areas” of the body to whom the request is made, a separate fee will be required for each part.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Gilmore said that, over a period of time, there had been attempts to “get round” the Freedom of Information by including multiple queries in one request.
"I think it's reasonable that a reasonable charge is paid where there are multiple requests and where very considerable resources sometimes have to be mobilised in Government departments and State agencies to respond to the FOI request," said Mr Gilmore.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said last night: “It is undermining of the fee per issue principle that several unrelated matters can be asked by way of a single request. Of course, subsets of the same question can be included in a single request. The legislation and the code of practice for FOI will make this clear.
“In the context of extraordinary pressure on the public purse and the requirement to charge for a range of essential services it is reasonable to require a small contribution to be made to the cost of information retrieval,” she added.