27 June 2023
By Mary Bermingham
- 261 FOI requests made to Cork City Council
- 226 FOI requests made Cork County Council
- 162 FOI requests made to South Infirmary/Victoria Hospital
- 102 FOI requests made to Mercy Hospital Cork
- 83 FOI requests made to UCC
There were over 35,000 requests made to public bodies under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in 2022. Last year also saw 657 applications made to the Information Commissioner to review FOI decisions made by public bodies.
Speaking at the publication of his Office’s annual report for 2022, the Information Commissioner, Ger Deering, said that usage of FOI remained high with a 26% increase in the number of FOI requests made to public bodies since 2015.
There were 35,465 FOI requests made to public bodies, such as government departments, local authorities and voluntary hospitals, in 2022. There were 11,233 FOI requests made to the HSE – an increase of 12% on 2021. The number of requests to the Department of Social Protection increased by 20% on 2021 (to 2,085), while TUSLA reported a drop of 18% on the preceding year (down to 1,120 in 2022).
The Office of the Information Commissioner received 657 applications to review decisions made by public bodies under the FOI Act – mostly involving refusals of access to records. The Commissioner accepted 81 applications in relation to HSE decisions, 31 involved the Department of Justice, while TUSLA saw 25 of its decisions challenged.
The Information Commissioner also referred to the ongoing review of the FOI Act by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Commissioner’s Office made a detailed submission to the Minister aimed at improving the FOI process for everyone, including users and public bodies. The Commissioner said he looked forward to working with the Minister’s officials to progress the implementation of the review.
Information Commissioner Decisions in 2022
The Information Commissioner’s annual report 2022 describes some notable decisions made by his Office last year.
A number of decisions involved refusals by public bodies on the ground that the records related to their ‘deliberative processes’. The Commissioner’s decisions highlighted the need for public bodies, to not only show that the record contains matter relating to the deliberative process, but to also demonstrate that access would be contrary to the public interest. Cases which involved this requirement included the decision by Trinity College Dublin to refuse access to records relating to the closure of the Science Gallery (page 38), and the Department of Justice’s refusal to release a note of a meeting between its Minister and the Inspector of Prisons (page 39).
In a separate case, (page 37), the Information Commissioner directed St. Vincent’s University Hospital to release a copy of the Religious Sisters of Charity Heath Service Philosophy and Ethical Code. The hospital had refused access to the code and claimed that release would be misleading as the code was no longer relevant. The Commissioner did not accept that the possibility that the code could be misinterpreted by the pubic was a valid reason for refusing its release. The Commissioner also pointed out that there was no provision in the FOI Act to exempt information from release on the ground that it was factually inaccurate.
Each of the decisions mentioned in the report include links to the full decision on our website.
Most FOI requests received by public bodies in 2022 – Top 3:
|Public body||2022||Increase/decrease on 2021|
|Dept. Social Protection||2,085||+20%|
|TUSLA – Child & Family Agency||1,120||-18%|
Type of FOI requester to public bodies:
|Clients of public bodies||56.7%|
|Staff of public bodies||2.2%|
Applications for review accepted by the Information Commissioner 2022: Top 6 bodies
|Dept. of Justice||31|
|TUSLA – Child & Family Agency||25|
|Dept. of Children, Equality, Disability Integration & Youth||18|
|Dept. of Agriculture, Food and the Marine||16|
The Information Commissioner’s annual report for 2022 is available at www.OIC.ie