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Freedom of Information (FOI)

Introduction

The Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) has prepared and published a Publication Scheme concerning the information of the Assembly in conformity with a Model and Guidelines made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014.

The Scheme comes into effect on the 14th April, 2016.

Purpose of Scheme:

The Scheme is designed to facilitate the provision of information to the greatest extent possible, except for information exempted under the Act and, in preparing, reviewing or revising a Publication Scheme; an FOI body shall have regard to the public interest in:
(a) allowing public access to information held by the FOI body;
(b) the publication of reasons for decisions made by the FOI body; and
(c) publishing information of relevance or interest to the general public in relation to its activities and functions generally.

Before you decide to make a request for information under FOI from the Northern & Western Regional Assembly (NWRA), please browse our website or view our Publication Scheme below. The information you require may already be available.
Publication Scheme
The Scheme is web based with links from it to information under six headings as set out below which will be updated as provided for under the Act. A hard copy will be available for viewing by appointment also.

This publication scheme requires NWRA to make information available to the public as part of its normal business activities. Its purpose is to facilitate easy access to information on our website.

Information will be provided under the following six headings:
A. Information about the NWRA – see web links below
B. Functions & Public Services Provided or to be Provided – see web links below
C. Decision Making Procedures
D. Financial Information
E. Procurement
F. Information Routinely Published – see web links below

How to make an FOI request
Write to the FOI Officer, Northern & Western Regional Assembly, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon or email foi@nwra.ie.

In your correspondence you should:
• Refer to the FOI Act, 2014
• Give as much information as possible about the records you want
• Specify how you prefer the records – as paper copies, electronic copies or in another format such as a CD-ROM
Alternatively, you can use our application form.

Assistance to Persons with a Disability
The Assembly’s Freedom of information Officer is available to provide assistance to any persons with a disability to exercise their rights under the FOI Act.
• Please contact the Freedom of Information Officer foi@nwra.ie
• Tel 353-94-9862970

Application Form

. Download the Application Form

Publication of requests
The Assembly has a policy of posting a disclosure summary of non personal FOI requests on its website for reference purposes. View our Disclosure logs on the link below.
Freedom of Information Disclosure Log

Fees and Payment

Do I have to pay?
There is no fee for making a request under the FOI Act; however fees are applicable for internal reviews in cases where non-personal information is sought. Fees may be charged for the cost of photocopying and there are also charges for the search and retrieval of other information. The table below provides details of the fee structure as outlined in the legislation.

FOI Table of Fees

Personal Information
If you are seeking access to your personal information there are unlikely to be fees or charges unless the volume of material is large, involving hundreds of records. No charges are likely to arise in the case of requests or appeals relating to:
• Records containing personal information relating to the requester,
• Amendments to records containing personal information
• Reasons for decisions which affected the requester.

Fees
In the event of fees being payable, they may be paid by cheque or by postal order made out to the Northern & Western Regional Assembly.

Other useful links
• Assembly’s statement of Information practices
• Freedom of Information Act 2014
• Freedom of Information Act (Fees) (No. 2) Regulation 2014
• Department of Finance Central Policy Unit which has overall responsibility for FOI
• The Office of the Information Commissioner

FOI Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Freedom of Information Act?
The Freedom of Information Act 2014 gives you the right to access records held by NWRA and other public bodies. You don’t have to give a reason why you want to see these records. A decision on your request must normally be made within four weeks.

What can I ask for from NWRA?
You can ask for the following records held by the NWRA:
• Any records relating to you personally, whenever they were created
• All other records created after 21 April, 1998

A record can be a paper document, information held on computer, printouts, maps, microfiche, audio-visual material, etc.

What are my rights under the freedom of Information Act 2014?

Freedom of Information refers to rights provided to every person under the Freedom of Information Act 2014. This Act provides that every person has the following rights:
• You have the right to obtain access to information held by Public Bodies including Government Departments
• You have 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.

These rights mean that people can seek access from NWRA to personal information held on them – no matter when the information was created – and to other records created after 21st April 1998. In certain circumstances records created before 21st April 1998 may be accessible particularly if these records are required to assist in understanding records created after the Act commenced on 21st April, 1998.

How long will my application take?

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 sets down time-limits for the processing of requests, they are as follows:

• Acknowledgement of a request within two weeks (10 working days) from the date of receipt of request
• A reply to a request within four weeks (20 working days) from the date of receipt of request

However it may be necessary to extend this period for up to four weeks more if –
• The records relate to a third party who may have to be contacted, in such circumstances the deadline may be extended by up to three weeks
• The request relates to a very large number of records,
• A large number of requests for the same record(s) has been made

If the period is extended, you will receive a letter from the Assembly’s FOI Officer before the end of the initial four week period. This letter will outline the reasons for the delay.

Where NWRA considers that your request should be sent to another public body, the request shall be forwarded to that public body. The Assembly’s FOI Officer will write to you within two weeks of receiving your request advising you that the request has been transferred. Your request will then be treated as though you had sent it to the second public body on the date which they receive it.

If NWRA holds some, but not all, of the records that you have requested, then the Assembly’s FOI Officer will write to you informing you of this, and supplying the name(s) and contact details of the other bodies from whom you should request those records not held by NWRA.

What happens if my request is granted?

If NWRA granted your request the Assembly’s FOI Officer will write to you stating:
• That your request has been granted
• The name of the person dealing with your request
• The day on which the decision was made
• The format in which the record will be released
• The fee for searches if applicable

If I’m denied access to information, can I appeal against the decision?

Yes. You may ask the Assembly for an internal review by a more senior staff member. They will inform you of the result of the review within three weeks.

What happens if my request is refused?

If NWRA refused your request the Assembly’s FOI Officer will write to you stating:
• That the request has been refused, and the reasons for the refusal
• The name of the person who decided to refuse the record
• You will be informed of your rights of appeal and review, as set out below.

When can I make a request for and Internal Review of a decision made by NWRA?

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage interests of third parties or the public good known as the public interest. If the initial decision maker decides to withhold information then the requester may submit a request to have the matter reviewed by an internal reviewer in NWRA.

When can I make a request for an internal review of a decision?

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage interests of third parties or the public good known as the public interest. If the initial decision maker decides to withhold information then the requester may submit a request to have the matter reviewed by an internal reviewer in NWRA.

Decisions about, delaying access to records, charges for searches and the form, in which access is granted, may also be reviewed by an internal reviewer in NWRA.

Requests for internal review must be submitted in writing within four weeks of the original decision. The request should be made to: Internal Review, FOI Officer, Northern & Western Regional Assembly, The Square, Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon or email foi@nwra.ie.

The Assembly must complete its internal review and notify you within three weeks of receiving the request.

An application for an internal review that is not completed within three weeks is deemed to be a refusal. In such circumstances a requester can then proceed to request a review by the Information Commissioner without waiting for NWRA to communicate its decision. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you may ask the Information Commissioner to review the matter.

What do you mean by exemptions?

The FOI Act refers to circumstances where certain records are protected. This can includes material relating to investigations, another business, legal advices, and records relating to or personal information about an individual.

When can I appeal a decision made by NWRA to the Information Commissioner?

If dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you may appeal the decision and seek an independent external review from the Information Commissioner. Appeals to the Information Commissioner must be made in writing within six months and sent to the following address:
• Office of the Information Commissioner, 18 Lower Leeson, Dublin 2.
• Telephone: +353 -1 -678 5222 Fax: +353 1 6610570
• Web http://www.oic.gov.ie/en/