Freedom of Information (FOI) and Access to Information on the Environment (AIE)
What is FOI?
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1997, came into effect for the Marine Institute on November 22nd, 2002. It establishes a number of important legal rights for every person, as follows:
- the right to access official records created after 21 April, 1998 which are held by Government Departments or other public bodies listed in the Act;
- the right to have personal information held on them corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- and the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by public bodies that affect them.
For more information on the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 visit the Freedom of Information Website or the Office of the Information Commissioner Website.
What records can be requested?
Under the Act, the following records are accessible:
- all records created after the Act originally commenced on 21 April, 1998;
- all records created earlier if needed to understand records created after that date;
- all records relating to personal information of clients, irrespective of when they were created;
- all records of staff created after 21 April, 1995, or earlier if used adversely against a staff member.
How do I make a FOI request to the Marine Institute?
Requests for information must be made in writing the following addresses:
The request must indicate that the information is being sought under the FOI Acts. If information is desired in a particular format (such as a photocopy, computer disk etc.), this should be specified in the application. Requests should be as specific as possible to enable the information sought to be identified. The Marine Institute is obliged to acknowledge the request within two weeks, and generally make a decision on the request within four weeks, or eight weeks in certain cases. If the Institute does not respond within four weeks the decision is deemed to have been refused and the requester can proceed to the review stage. A request for non-personal information must be accompanied by a €15 up front fee (€10 if you are a medical card holder).
An application form (pdf, 4KB) has been devised to facilitate the making of requests. Assistance in making requests If difficulty is experienced in identifying the records required, the FOI Officer will be happy to assist the requester in the formulation of the request.
The FOI Officer can be contacted at the above and also by phone: (091) 387200, or fax: (091) 387201.
What if I am not satisfied with the decision on my FOI request?
You may seek an ‘internal review’ of the decision by a more senior official within the Institute. Applications for review of a decision on a request must be made within four weeks, and should be addressed to:
The review must be completed by the Institute within three weeks. If the requester is still unhappy with the decision, he or she has the right to appeal the decision to the Information Commissioner, at the following address:
Office of the Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Phone: (01) 6785222 Fax: (01) 6610570
Is there a charge for getting information under the FOI Act?
A fee of €15 must accompany a request for records other than records containing only personal information relating to oneself. A reduced fee of €10 applies in relation to such a request if you are covered by a medical card. Neither fee applies if the request is for personal information relating to oneself.
Charges may be applied for the time spent finding records and for any photocopying costs incurred by the Institute in providing material to the requester. Requesters will not be charged for the time spent on deciding whether or not to grant their request. It is very unlikely that any costs will arise in cases of personal information, unless the volume of records sought is exceptionally high.
Do I need to make a FOI request to get information from the Marine Institute?
No, it is not necessary to make an FOI request to get information from the Institute. A considerable amount of information is already available to the public through this website, information leaflets, the above publication and in response to queries. Contact points for information on services provided are set out in the Section 16 part of the manual. FOI provides an additional source of information by facilitating access to records not made routinely available.
Access to Information on the Environment (AIE)
Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament provides that, subject to certain exceptions, information relating to the environment held by, or for, a public authority must be made available on request to any person, without that person having to state an interest. The European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. 133 of 2007), give legal rights to those seeking access to information on the environment from public authorities. They were amended by theEuropean Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2011, (S.I. 662 of 2011). Both pieces of legislation are to be read together and to be construed as one and can be referred to as the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2011.
Interpretation of the Regulations
The Regulations provide a definition of environmental information and outline the manner in which requests for information may be submitted to public authorities. The Regulations also provide for a formal appeals procedure in the event that a person is unhappy with a decision on their request.
In these Regulations “Directive” means Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003.
“environmental information” means any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on –
(a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms and the interaction among these elements,
(b) factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment,
(c) measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements,
(d) reports on the implementation of environmental legislation,
(e) cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in paragraph (c), and
(f) the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are, or may be, affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in paragraph (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c);
“environmental information held by a public authority” means environmental information in the possession of a public authority that has been produced or received by that authority;
“environmental information held for a public authority” means environmental information that is physically held by a natural or legal person on behalf of that authority.
How do I make a request for Environmental Information?
A request for environmental information shall
(a) be made in writing or electronic form,
(b) state that the request is made under these Regulations
(c) state the name, address and any other relevant contact details of the applicant
(d) state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information that is the subject of the request, and
(e) if the applicant desires access to environmental information in a particular form or manner, specific the form or manner of access desired.
An applicant shall not be required to state his or her interest in making the request. There is no initial fee required when lodging a request for information under AIE
A request to the Marine Institute for Environmental Information should be made in writing or electronic form to:
The Marine Institute is obliged to acknowledge the request within two weeks, and generally make a decision on the request within four weeks, or eight weeks in certain cases. If the Institute does not respond within four weeks the decision is deemed to have been refused and the requester can proceed to the review stage.
What if I am not satisfied with the decision on my Environmental Information request?
You may seek an ‘internal review’ of the decision from the Marine Institute who shall designate a person unconnected with the original decision whose rank is the same as, or higher than, that of the original decision-maker to review the decision. Applications for review of a decision on a request must be made within four weeks, and should be addressed to:
No fee will be charged for the internal review process. The review must be completed by the Institute within one month. If the requester is still unhappy with the decision, he or she has the right of appeal the decision to the Commissioner for Environmental Information. The holder of the office of Commissioner for Environment Information shall be the person who, for the time being, holds the office of Information Commissioner under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003.
Office of the Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Phone: (01) 6395689
Is there a charge for getting Environmental Information under the AIE Regulations?
There is no initial fee required when lodging a request for information under AIE. However, in line with the Regulations, the Marine Institute may charge a fee when it makes available environmental information in accordance with these Regulations, provided that such fee shall be reasonable having regard to the Directive. The Marine Institute shall not charge a fee for access to any public registers or lists of environmental information pursuant to Article 5(1)(d). The Marine Institute shall not charge a fee for the examination in situ of information requested. Where the Marine Institute charges a fee, it shall make available a list of fees charged, information on how they are calculated and the circumstances under which they may be waived. No fee will be charged for the internal review process.
A fee of €150 shall be charged for making an appeal to the Commissioner. In respect of an appeal by
(a) A holder of a medical card
(b) A dependant of a holder of a medical card, or
(c) A person referred to in article 12(3)(b),
the fee charged shall be €50.