The Defence Forces and the Freedom of Information Act (FOI)
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, 1997 establishes three new statutory rights:
- A legal right for each person to access information held by public bodies;
- A legal right for each person to have official information relating to him/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading;
- A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting oneself;
The Act asserts the right of members of the public to obtain access to official information to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy of individuals.
This site contains extracts from the reference book which has been prepared and published in accordance with the requirements of section 15 of the Act. Its purpose is to facilitate access to official information held by the Defence Forces.
Routinely Available Information
The Defence Forces currently make information routinely available to the public in relation to its functions and activities. Such information will continue to be available informally without the need to use the FOI Act.
The FOI Act is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies which is not routinely available through other sources. Access to information under the Act is subject to certain exemptions and involves specific procedures and time limits.
Policy on Confidentiality and Freedom of Information
Part III of the Act (Exempt records) sets out a series of related measures to protect information relating to key areas of Government activity (including security, defence and international relations) and parliamentary and court matters, as well as third party information of a personal, commercial or confidential nature. Within that general context, however, the Defence Forces will try to provide every requester with as much assistance and information as possible.
If, for any reason, it is wished that any information provided to the Defence Forces should not be disclosed because of its sensitive nature, then it is incumbent upon the person or body when supplying information to make clear this wish and to specify the reasons for the information's sensitivity. The Defence Forces will consult with any individual or body so supplying sensitive information before making a decision on any Freedom of Information request received.
How to apply for Information under the FOI Act
Applications under the FOI Act
Under the FOI Act, anyone is entitled to apply for access to information not otherwise publicly available. Each person has a right to:
- access to records held by the Defence Forces;
- correction of personal information relating to oneself held by the Defence Forces where it is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading;
- access to reasons for decisions made by the Defence Forces directly affecting oneself.
The following records come within the scope of the Act:
- all records relating to personal information held by the Defence Forces irrespective of when created;
- all other records created from commencement date i.e. 21 April, 1998;
- any other records necessary to the understanding of a current record.
The Defence Forces are obliged to respond to the request within 4 weeks.
Applications in writing for information under the FOI Act should be addressed to:
Freedom of Information Officer,
Note: Applications for information under the FOI Act in relation to the Department of Defence will be dealt with by the Department's FOI Officer which is a separate organisation in relation to Freedom Of Information.
Applications should be in writing and should clearly indicate that the information is sought under the Freedom of Information Act. If information is desired in a particular form i.e. photocopy, computer disk, etc. this should also be mentioned in your application. Please give as much detail as possible to enable the staff of the Defence Forces to identify the record. If you have difficulty in identifying the precise records which you require, the staff of the Defence Forces will be happy to assist you in preparing your request. Requests will be acknowledged within two weeks and you will be informed of the name of the person dealing with the request
Note: requesters must include a telephone number or some other contact system such as the local Gardaí in order that the bona fides of the requester can be established when requesting personal information.
Rights of Review and AppealThe FOI Act sets out a series of exemptions to protect sensitive information where its disclosure may damage key interests of the State or of third parties. Where a decision is taken to invoke 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:
Applicants may seek internal review of the initial decision which will be carried out by an Deputy Chief of Staff (support) at a higher level if:
- The applicant is dissatisfied with the initial response received i.e. refusal of information, form of access, charges, etc.,
- The applicant has not received a reply within four weeks of the initial application. This is deemed to be a refusal of your request and allows you to proceed to internal review.
A request for an internal review must be submitted within four weeks of the initial decision. The Defence Forces must complete the review within three weeks. An internal review must normally be completed before an appeal can be made to the Information Commissioner.
Review by the Commissioner
Following completion of internal review, the applicant may seek independent review of the decision from the Information Commissioner. Also if the applicant has not received a reply to the application for internal review within 3 weeks, this is deemed to be a refusal and an appeal may be made to the Information Commissioner.
Appeals in writing may be made directly to the Information Commissioner at the following address:
18 Lower Leeson Street,
+353 1 6395689
+353 1 6395674
Fees may be charged as follows:
In respect of personal records, fees in respect of the cost of copying the records requested will not apply, save where a large number of records are involved.
In respect of other (non-personal) information, fees may be charged in respect of the time spent in efficiently locating and copying records, based on a standard hourly rate in operation at the time of the request. No charges may apply in respect of the time spent by public bodies in considering requests.
A deposit may be payable where the total fee is likely to exceed €40. In these circumstances, the public body must, if requested, assist the member of the public to amend the request so as to reduce or eliminate the amount of the deposit.
Charges may be waived in the following circumstances:
- where the cost of collecting and accounting for the fee would exceed the amount of the fee
- where the information would be of particular assistance to the understanding of an issue of national importance; or,
- in the case of personal information, where such charges would not be reasonable having regard to the means of the requester.
Records held by the Defence Forces
- Accommodation & Barrack Services
- Military Police
- Military Aviation
- Naval Matters
- Naval Operations
- Personal Files (ex-members)
- Personal Files (serving members)
- Planning & Research
- Public Relations Reserve Defence Force
- Air Defence
- Air Intelligence
- Air Operations
Read More about the Defence Forces Information Office