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Information Commissioner launches his Annual Report for 2014

Information Commissioner reports significant improvements in productivity in his first full year in office.

The Information Commissioner and Commissioner for Environmental Information, Peter Tyndall, launched his Annual Report for 2014 today, Friday 8 May 2015. This is the seventeenth report since the Office was founded in 1998.  The Commissioner is reporting on his first complete year in Office.

The report reflects on a successful year with major increases in performance and some important decisions.  The Commissioner expresses confidence that the new FOI Act 2014 will lead to renewed public interest in the work of Government and public services.

The Commissioner:

  • Is pleased to be able to report on significant improvements in productivity for the year, including a 31% increase in the number of reviews completed over 2013,
  • Welcomes the passing into law of the FOI Act 2014, which brings a large number of additional bodies within remit, including An Garda Síochána, NAMA and the Central Bank of Ireland,
  • Welcomes the abolition of the €15 fee for making an FOI request and the significant reduction in the fee for submitting applications for review to his Office,
  • Used his powers under section 37(2) of the FOI Act (the first Commissioner to do so) to enter a premises occupied by a public body, for the purpose of obtaining access to information.

 

Key decisions made in 2014 include:

  • The Commissioner directed the release of records relating to direct provision accommodation of asylum seekers in Ireland.
  • The Commissioner considered he had no option but to conclude that the HSE had taken all reasonable steps to locate a patient’s medical records notwithstanding the fact that he had concerns about the possible wilful removal of records.
  • A decision by the Courts Service to refuse access to details of expenses paid to individual judges on privacy and security grounds was not upheld.
  • A decision by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to refuse access to records relating to the RTÉ “Prime Time Investigates – Mission to Prey” programme was upheld.
  • The Commissioner directed the release of records relating to the Phoenix Park concerts in 2012 and held that the FOI Act does not exempt Garda reports as a class, regardless of content.
  • The Commissioner took the rare step of specifying the timeframe within which a county council must comply with his decision, in light of the manner in which it had engaged with the applicant and with his Office.

 

Commissioner for Environmental Information

Part II of the Annual Report for 2014 relates to the Commissioner’s separate role as Commissioner for Environmental Information. It focuses on decisions made by his Office on appeals under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations 2007 to 2011.

The Commissioner:

  • Welcomes the approval of a separate budget allocation, for the first time, to the legally independent Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI),
  • Is pleased to note an increased level of positive engagement with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on issues relating to the AIE Regulations.

 

Outcome of appeals in 2014 include:

  • The Commissioner found that it is not sufficient for information to simply relate to a category, as defined by Article 3(1), in order for it to qualify as environmental information.
  • Following engagement with OCEI, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published information relating to the funding requirements of Irish Water and future water charges, thereby negating the need for a decision by the Commissioner.
  • The Commissioner exercised his discretion to deem an appeal withdrawn on the ground that no further issues remained to be determined, notwithstanding the appellant’s objection.

 

Further information contact: 

Stephen Rafferty, Senior Investigator - 01 639 5680 / 087 4110557

Email: stephen.rafferty@oic.gov.ie

Media enquiries contact:

David Nutley, Communications Unit – 01 639 5610 / 086 0231420

Email: david.nutley@ombudsman.gov.ie

The 2014 Annual Report is available on the Commissioner's website at www.oic.gov.ie.

End