Irish Information Commissioner publishes Annual Report 2008

The Irish Information Commissioner, Emily O’Reilly, has published her Annual Report for 2008. The report reveals that the overall number of FOI requests increased in Ireland in 2008 for the first time since 2005. The Commissioner also believes that FOI had a more obvious impact on public life than in recent years.

Level of requests to public bodies
Some 12,672 requests were made to public bodies under the FOI Act in 2008 . This is an increase of 18% over the 2007 figure (10,704) and 7% over 2006 (11,804) . It marks a most welcome reversal of the downward trend in request numbers, with the exception of 2005, since the introduction of fees for requests in the FOI Amendment Act of 2003 . While I am not aware of any specific reason driving this development, the number of high profile media stories emanating from records released under FOI during the second half of the year in particular may be a factor.

Impact of FOI in the Public Domain in 2008
I believe that 2008 was a year in which FOI had a more obvious impact on public life than has been the case in recent years . Particularly in the latter half of the year, scarcely a day went by without media stories referencing the results of FOI requests. While some might pay lip service to the ideals of openness and transparency, there were times during 2008 when we saw FOI make a significant impact . Unfortunately much of what was revealed did not show public bodies in a positive light . That, in itself, is evidence that FOI is working . The fact that release of, for example, the travel costs incurred by executives in FÁS, the State Training and Employment Authority would embarrass the individuals involved is not a reason that justifies withholding the information under the FOI Act . The debate around the release of the records and the repercussions for some of the people involved proves yet again that FOI is, indeed, a necessary part of the democratic process.

As economic difficulties became more apparent, I noticed what I believe is a more targeted approach by the media and various interest groups in regard to FOI usage.

Annual Report of Information Commissioner 2008 – 2.9mb Pdf format
Accompanying news release

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