Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes Minister Howlin’s announcement that Government has approved the removal of an application fee for Freedom of Information Requests

 1st July 2014

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Open Knowledge Ireland – dedicated to promoting open data and open knowledge for citizens (openknowledge.ie)

 

Open Knowledge Ireland welcomes today’s announcement by the Minister that the suggested reforms to the FOI fees regime includes the removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal requests.

On April 10th 2014 Open Knowledge Ireland together with a squad of Freedom of Information advocates for Ireland wrote an Open Letter to Minister Brendan Howlin asking to leverage the Government’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership as an opportunity to remove fees at all stages of FOI and AIE requests and appeals. The letter was signed by 74 signatories urging the Minister to consider the points outlined for his upcoming FOI bill.

On May 7th, at the Civil Society Day, which was held on the eve of the OGP Europe regional meeting, the upfront fees charged in Ireland for submission of FOI requests were brought to the attention of 120 civil society and government representatives from 30 countries.

And today we are pleased to see the Minister is making a step in the right direction!

Denis Parfenov, Open Knowledge Ambassador for Ireland and one of the Founders of the Open Knowledge Chapter in Ireland, in his reaction today said that he “warmly welcomes this announcement”.

This is a great success story for all citizens and FOI advocates who were involved in pushing to drop FOI fees as part of Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. Open Knowledge Ireland together with Irish citizens and other Irish civil society organisations had been pushing to include a commitment on free FOI requests into the 2 year Action Plan and we are very pleased that the Minister has considered the recommendations of Irish Civil Society OGP Network.

Flora, Co-Founder at Open Knowledge Ireland gives an early reaction to the announcement and has collated early voices from passionate FOI advocates in Ireland:

Open Knowledge Ireland is adopting a cautious position to the FOI reforms announced today. While we’re welcoming the announcements and Minister Howlin’s consideration of the Open Government Partnership principles, we still need to wait until we see the full set of proposed amendments in order to make an accurate assessment of the impact of all the changes.

 

In the following find our low down of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly + Next Steps

The Good

The Bad

And the Ugly

    • How far reaching is the commitment to openness really? The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform “has asked that we [the civil society network involved in providing feedback on the proposed OGP Action Plan] would review the sentence in the CS Foreword expressing disappointment that more progress wasn’t made in relation to the abolition of fees” in light of the announcement that was made today.
      1. The request was sent not to the whole network but to one or more persons that the Department chooses to work together with.
      2. We are being asked to change the wording without having insights to the actual suggested amendments which are more than likely ready to go and could be provided for insight.
      3. Good to see there was an outcry by FOI advocates that the wording should not be changed until promises have turned into actions and until detailed amendments have been shared.

 

Next Steps

– We really need to wait and see the actual suggested amendments and the new bill before we can make any quality assessment. In the meantime these documents provide more detail about the suggested changes. Some of those raise questions:

 

            

 

 

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