Section 8: FOI Reference Book 1: Access to Information

The purpose of FOI Reference Book 1 is to provide information on the way in which National College of Ireland (‘NCI’) deals with access requests and reviews under the Freedom of Information Act 2014. It is to provide information to assist you in making a request and in accessing information under the Act. 

We will normally be obliged to respond to a request within four weeks. A week is defined in the Act to mean five consecutive weekdays, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays. 

The contact details for our FOI Officer are as follows: 

The Freedom of Information Officer
Finance Department
National College of Ireland
Mayor St
IFSC
Dublin 1 

Ph: +353 (0)1 4498 523 
Email: foi@ncirl.ie

Rights

Freedom of Information legislation (‘FOI’) asserts the right of members of the public to have as much access as possible to official information held by bodies that fall under its scope. However, the right to access is not absolute and is subject to certain exemptions. All requests require specific procedures to be followed which are established by the law. 

Under the FOI Act, any member of the public is entitled to access their own personal records that the National College of Ireland may hold about them. It also allows any member of the public to apply for access to records not otherwise publicly available. The legislation affords three statutory rights to individuals: 

  • The right for each person to access information held by public bodies 
  • The right for each person to have official information relating to them amended where it is incomplete 
  • The right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting them 

Subject to certain exemptions, this means a person has: 

  • The right to know what information about them is in the College’s records 
  • The right to inspect files held by the College relating to them 
  • The right to have inaccurate and incorrect information on a file amended or corrected 

Section 11 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 establishes a statutory right of access to any record held by a body it covers. There is no restriction on who can make a request as it confers a general right to all individuals. However, there are certain access restrictions to these records as listed in the Act.

Records

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 allows the following records to be sought; 

  • All College records created from the commencement date of Freedom of Information (21 April 1998) 
  • All personal records irrespective of when created 
  • Any other records necessary to the understanding of a current record 
  • All personnel records of serving staff created from 21 April 1995 and those created prior to that date where they are being used or proposed to be used in a way which adversely affects or may affect the person involved 

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 updated and modernised the definition of a record. It now applies to any material in any electronic device or machine readable form, and applies to mechanical or electronic devices in which visual images or other data are embodied so as to be capable, with or without the aid of some other mechanical or electronic equipment, of being reproduced. 

The Act defines an electronic device as ‘any device which uses any electric, digital, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, biometric or photonic means, or other forms of related technology, or any combination thereof, to store or transmit data’. 

The Act defines a record as: 

(a) A book or other written or printed material in any form (including in any electronic device or in machine readable form) 

(b) A memorandum, map, plan, drawing, diagram, pictorial, or graphic work or document 

(c) A disc, tape, or other mechanical device in which data other than visual images are embodied so as to be capable, with or without the aid of some other mechanical or electronic equipment, of being reproduced from the disc, tape, or other device 

(d) A film, disc, or other mechanical or electronic device in which visual images are embodied so as to be capable, with or without the aid of some other mechanical or electronic equipment, of being reproduced from the film, disc, tape or other device 

(e) A copy or part copy of anything, in any form, a, b, c, and d

Model publication scheme and non-personal records

National College of Ireland makes information available under section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014. This section of the Act concerns the publication scheme which requires the National College of Ireland to make certain information available on our website. The publication scheme requires the College to: 

  • Provide information that will assist members of the public in their understanding of the College and its functions 
  • Provide information that it holds as set out in section 8 
  • Explain the procedures to follow to gain access to records or to establish what information the FOI body holds 

In addition, the College will continue to routinely make available information pertaining to its functions, activities, and schemes, without the use of FOI legislation.

Making your application

  • Your application must be in writing and state that you are making a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The initial request is free of charge. However, fees and charges may be incurred for the search, and retrieval of records. A fee is applicable to certain reviews and appeals. These fees are outlined below under the ‘Fees’ tab. The relevant fee should be paid by bank draft, money order or cheques drawn on a bank in the Republic of Ireland, made payable to The National College of Ireland. 
  • Your application must include sufficient particulars to enable the College to locate the records you are looking for. We request that you are as specific as possible to ensure we can answer your request in an efficient and timely manner. Being specific can also result in lower charges in cases in which they are applicable. Sufficient particulars include, for example, stating the type of records you are looking for, their subject content, and the time period to which they relate. Please be aware that applications can be rejected if they do not provide sufficient particulars, are voluminous, are vexatious, or are composed of questions or statements. If you have any queries or difficulties in preparing your application, or would like advice before making a request, the FOI Officer will provide you with reasonable assistance. 
  • Your application should state if you require a response in a particular format. For example, a photocopy, computer disk, scan etc. If this is not specified, you will receive a response in the manner in which your application was submitted. For example, if you make an application by email, you will receive a response by email with attachments of the released documents. If you make an application by post, you will receive a response by post with photocopies. 
  • National College of Ireland may need to verify your identity prior to releasing any personal data. This is to ensure your personal data is not disclosed to the wrong person. Acceptable forms of identification include a current driving licence, a current passport, or valid staff ID. In most cases, a copy will suffice but we do reserve the right to request to see original documents or request further supporting documents such as recent utility bills, banks statements, etc. Once your identity has been verified, we will dispose the copies of your documents in a secure manner.

Assistance to persons with a disability

Under Section 11(2)(b) of the Act, NCI must give reasonable assistance to those with a disability to enable the exercise of a person’s rights. For example, we can accept oral requests from those who are unable to read or write. 

If you need assistance, please contact the FOI Officer.

FOI decision making in NCI

We acknowledge receipt of all written FOI applications not later than 2 weeks following their receipt, and forward them to the FOI Decision Maker(s) for decision. 

The Decision Maker(s) proceeds to deal with the request, liaise with the requester as appropriate, and make a decision on the matter. A Decision Maker is a designated member of staff that will look for the records relevant to your request and decide if they can be released. The Decision Maker will respond to requests within four weeks of the date of receipt. However, there may be circumstances in which NCI requires an extension of time to consider your request.

Right of review and appeal

The Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State, bodies covered by FOI, or of third parties. Where a body 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 the subject of appeal. Details of the appeals mechanisms are as follows: 

(i) Internal Review You may seek internal review of the initial decision which will be carried out by an FOI internal review committee consisting of 3 senior executives of the College, and chaired by the Registrar. You may seek a review where: 

(a) You are dissatisfied with the initial response received i.e. refusal of information, form of access, charges, etc., or 

(b) You have not received a reply within 4 weeks of your initial application. This is deemed to be a refusal of your request and allows you to proceed to internal review. 

Requests for internal review should be submitted in writing and, if applicable, accompanied by the appropriate fee, (see under Fees) to the FOI Officer. 

The relevant fee should be paid by bank draft, money order or cheques drawn on a Bank in the Republic of Ireland, made payable to The National College of Ireland. 

Such a request for internal review must be submitted within four weeks of the initial decision. We must complete the review within three weeks. Internal reviews must normally be completed before an appeal may be made to the Office of the Information Commissioner. 

(ii) Review by the Information Commissioner Following completion of internal review, you may seek independent review of the decision from the Information Commissioner. Also if you have not received a reply to your application for internal review within three weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and you may appeal the matter to the Information Commissioner. 

Appeals in writing, and, if applicable, accompanied by the appropriate fee (see under Fees below) may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address: 

Office of the Information Commissioner,
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Dublin 2
D02 HE97 

Phone: +353-1-639 5689 
Email: info@oic.ie
Website: www.oic.ie

Fees

A range of fees are currently set out under Statutory Instruments. The fees are as follows; 

(i) Applications 

No fee is required for your initial FOI application made under section 12 of the Act. 

(ii) Internal Reviews 

A standard application fee of €30 must accompany an application for internal review under section 21 of the Act. For medical card holders and their dependents, the fee is €10. 

The following internal review applications are exempt from fees: 

  • An application in relation to a decision concerning records containing only personal information related to the applicant 
  • An application in relation to a decision under section 9 (right of amendment of records relating to personal information) 
  • An application in relation to a decision under section 10 (right of person to information regarding acts of public bodies affecting the person) 
  • An application in relation to a decision to charge a fee or deposit, or a fee or deposit of a particular amount 
  • An appeal of a decision which is deemed to be refused because the original request was not replied to within the required time limits 

(iii) Appeals to the Information Commissioner 

A standard application fee of €50 must accompany applications to the Information Commissioner for review of decisions made by public bodies under section 22 of the Act. For medical card holders and their dependents, the fee is €15. The reduced €15 charge also applies to persons specified in section 38(2) i.e. a third party with the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner where a FOI body decides to release their information on public interest grounds. 

The following applications to the Information Commissioner do not require an application fee: 

  • An application concerning records containing only personal information related to the applicant 
  • An application in relation a decision under section 9 (right of amendment of records relating to personal information) 
  • An application in relation to a decision under section 10 (right of person to information regarding acts of public bodies affecting the person) 
  • An appeal of a decision of a FOI body to charge a fee 
  • A request to which section 37(8) of the FOI Act applies 
  • An appeal of an internal review decision which is deemed to be refused because that decision was not made within the required time limits.