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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
An tAonad um Shaoráil Faisnéis
The section is responsible for assisting the general public and staff exercise their rights under the FOI Act which was extended to the HEA in October 2001.
For further details on FOI, please contact the HEA Offices at: Brooklawn House, Dublin 4
What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
The Freedom of Information Act 1997 (FOI Act), which was passed into law on 21st April 1997, applies to the HEA from the 1st October 2001. This act gives members of the public legal rights to:
- Access official records created since 21st April, 1998, which are held by Government Departments or other designated public bodies which are subject to the Act
- Access records relating to you personally, whenever created
- To have personal information corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading
- The criteria used by Public Bodies in making decisions that affect them
There are exemptions to protect sensitive information where disclosure may damage key interests of the state or citizen. A person does not have to specify why access is required and the Government department or public body concerned must provide an explanation to the requester if access is refused.
Access to Information within the Authority
Under the FOI Act, anyone is entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available. Each person has a right to:
- access to records held by the Authority;
- correction of personal information relating to oneself held by the Authority where it is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading;
- access to reasons for decisions made by the Authority directly affecting oneself.
The following records come within the scope of the Act:
- all records relating to personal information held by the Authority irrespective of when created;
- all other records created from the commencement of the FOI Act (21 April, 1998);
- any records necessary to the understanding of a current record even if created prior to 21 April 1998.
You should be aware that the following information is not covered by the Act:-
- Information that has already been published and is available from the Authority
- Non-personal information created before commencement date 21st April 1998
- You should also be aware that in some cases, some access may be refused to some categories of records under various exemptions set out in the Act.
Some of the main exemptions are
- Personal information relating to anyone other than the person requesting the information (there are some exceptions)
- Information relating to Cabinet discussions
- Information relating to parliamentary and court matters
- third party information of a personal, commercial or confidential nature
The Authority is obliged to acknowledge requests for information within 2 weeks and to respond within 4 weeks.
Requests for information can be made in writing, email or by fax to the office address above. You may be required to prove your identity, especially when requesting personal information so you may, therefore, be asked to produce your Passport, Driving license, Birth Certificate, etc. A fee of 15 euro (10 euro for medical card holders) must accompany all applications for non-personal information. There is no application fee if your request is for personal information.
Please be as detailed and as specific as possible when requesting information as this will enable the staff of the Authority to speedily reply to your request. If you require a reply in a particular format please mention this in your application. The staff of the FOI unit will be glad to assist you in preparing your request.
Right of Review and Appeal
The FOI Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where the Authority invokes these provisions to withhold information, the decision may be appealed. Decisions in relation to deferral of access, charges, forms of access, etc. may also be appealed. Details of the appeals mechanisms are set out in the following paragraphs.
Applicants may seek an internal review of the initial decision, which will be carried out by an official at a higher level, if:
(a) the applicant is dissatisfied with the initial response received, e.g. refusal of information, form of access, charges, etc., or
(b) the applicant has not received a reply within four weeks of the initial application - this is deemed to be a refusal of the request and allows the applicant to proceed to internal review.
Requests for an internal review should be submitted in writing to the FOI Unit.
Higher Education Authority
Lo Call: 1890 200 637
Fax: 01 2317172
A request for an internal review must be submitted within four weeks of the initial decision. The Authority must complete the review within three weeks. An internal review must normally be completed before an appeal may be made to the Information Commissioner.