TASC welcomes announcement that up-front Freedom of Information (FOI) fees are to be dropped
1st July 2014
TASC - Think-tank for Action on Social Change (www.tasc.ie)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TASC welcomes today's announcement that up-front application charges for information requests are to be dropped as part of a wider package of reforms to Ireland's Freedom of Information (FOI) regime.
The proposed removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal FOI requests is a key part of a suite of measures announced by Minister Brendan Howlin which are aimed at modernising how public bodies handle requests from members of the public for information. The changes mean that the majority of requests for information from public bodies will now be free of charge to members of the public.
Reacting to today's announcement, Nuala Haughey, Project Manager of TASC's Open Government Project, said "This is a very progressive step which will do away with a significant bureaucratic barrier to the flow of information between government and citizens, which is a very necessary, normal and healthy part of any democracy.
"Today's announcement is a very tangible outcome ahead of Ireland formally joining the international Open Government Partnership, which involves a renewed commitment by governments to listen to citizens and involve them more in public decision-making at all levels.
"TASC played a role among other civil society organisations in preparing Ireland's first Open Government Partnership action plan, and we will continue to monitor the implementation of this plan - including the new FOI rules - as part of our work in promoting democratic accountability in Ireland." Ms Haughey concluded.
Also reacting to the news, TASC's Director, Nat O'Connor, said "Up-front fees were known to be a barrier to citizens, journalists and researchers making requests to see files held by Government Departments or other public bodies. Such requests have played an important role in the past, by revealing the waste of public money in FÁS or as part of the now-cancelled National Stadium project.
"The proposed removal of up-front fees is a welcome development, as it signals a new openess by Government and it sets a new expectation that public bodies should be more willing to share documents with citizens and civil society organisations as a routine part of open government." Dr O'Connor concluded.