11th of April 2002
Chair: Mr Des Dowling CPU, Department of Finance
Secretary: Mr Gerry Quinlan CPU, Department of Finance
Attendance: As per Appendix A
1. Minutes of previous meeting:
The minutes of the previous meeting of 13 December 2001 were agreed.
2. FOI Developments:
2.1 Local Authority Sector:
Mr Aidan Maher (Dublin City Council) reported on issues relating to the local authority area. He informed members that the report on records management which was devised by archivists and FOI Officers in the local authority sector has now been published. It is available on CD ROM from the Local Government Management Services Board at a cost of
€ 40. In addition a training seminar for FOI officers had taken place in Tullamore in February. Ongoing training has been arranged.
2.2 Health Sector:
Mr Michael Lillis (SHB) reported on issues relating to the health sector. Mr Lillis welcomed the recent legal advice on section 23 (law enforcement & public safety). Other issues raised included statistics, High Court judgment on Orders of Discovery (see 4 below) and a meeting with the Office of the Information Commissioner to discuss new procedures.
2.3 Enterprise bodies:
Ms Wendy Hunter (Forfás) informed members that Lucas Clarke (co-ordinator) had returned to Australia. The enterprise bodies network had held 3 meetings and 6 workshops since the last PSUN meeting and no major developments were reported.
2.4 Education bodies:
Mr O Toole reported that to date Universities had received 420 requests under FOI while the Institutes of Technology had received 200 requests. Other issues arising included software and the anticipated increase in requests over the summer months (after examinations have been finished). Ms O' Connell (Council of the Directors of Institutes of Technology) informed members that FOI officers had attended a training course provided by CPU and that different case tracking systems are being examined. Ms Pfeifer (HEA) stated that FOI officers had recently attended training courses on FOI. Networks have been set up to look at FOI issues and records management policies.
3. Update on Training.
Mr Dowling informed members of the Interdepartmental Working Group (IWG) meeting discussion on training held on 28 February. He stressed the importance of training and the need to keep it as a priority. He reminded members of the three broad ranges of training (i) overview (basic awareness), (ii) decision making, and (iii) advanced, and that it is a priority in the CPU to help new bodies with training. Mr Dowling referred to the need to draw on the very significant levels of FOI expertise in many public bodies and the need to explore how this could be drawn upon in terms of meeting FOI trianing needs generally. In relation to external providers for FOI training, he informed members of discussions at the IWG where it was suggested that these providers be vetted so as to cater for the needs of new bodies. The emphasis has been to ensure choice but also quality of training. Mr Dowling asked any of the public bodies that had used external providers to contact CPU with their views in order to pass on this information to other public bodies. He informed members of the need to update the FOI manual, website and invited members to contact CPU with any comments/obs that they may have.
Mr Hyland informed members of the pilot E-learning FOI project that has been set up between CPU/CMOD. With the introduction of an e-learning package, the aim is that before attending a decision making course participants would have to prove (sign off) that they have completed the package. This would ensure that participants attending FOI decision making courses would have reached a certain standard of issues relating to FOI. This will in turn free up time in the current course which it is planned to devote to case study exercises. The e-learning project is at an early stage and members will be updated at subsequent meetings.
Ms Mc Grattan stressed the importance of quality of trainers. Mr M Lillis reported that the IPA had recently delivered tailored FOI training courses to staff in the health sector (mainly dealing with personal information). He will check with participants how the course went and will report back at the next meeting.
4. High Court Decision
Mr Wall introduced a draft CPU Notice (#19) offering guidance on High Court judgment EH and EPH v the Information Commissioner (4 April 2001) where the Court found that it would be a contempt of court for a public body to release a record under FOI if the same record had already been released through the process of discovery in the courts. In reaching this finding, the court found that records released through discovery are subject to an undertaking to the court not to use them for any purpose other than the litigation – the nature of the undertaking i.e. express or implied – being immaterial to the contempt. Records released through FOI on the other hand constitute release to the public at large.
Mr Wall said that legal advice had been received from the Office of the Attorney General and that the draft notice was still subject to consultation with that Office. Members were asked to provide any comments they had on the draft to the CPU. Mr Maher asked that this item be included on the next agenda.
5. Other FOI Developments .
Mr. Fox reported legal advices received from the Office of the Attorney General.
AG 0287 & 0287(A) High Court judgment EH and EPH v the Information Commissioner (4 April 2001).
AG 0289 Advice received in relation to section 18.
AG 0291 Wards of court: request for access to records by relatives
AG 0293 records held by foster parents and SI 260 of 1995.
6. Any other business:
Mr Dowling referred to the Annual Report circulated prior to the meeting. He informed members that CPU are considering revising future Annual Reports. He referred in particular to statistics and the reporting period. The CPU will be writing out to public bodies in the near future. Mr Quinlan informed members on the subgroup dealing with the Information Commissioner's Report – Compliance by public bodies. The subgroup have produced a draft of the outline action plan and when finalised will be presented to the IDWG. Members were also reminded of the dedicated website www.foi.gov.ie and were invited to make comments to the CPU.
FOI Public Service Users Network
Meeting 11 April 2002
Des Dowling Chairman – CPU
Ronan Fox CPU
Michael Hyland CPU
Gerry Quinlan CPU
Rob Wall CPU
Paul Brady NCCA
Michael Lillis Southern Health Board
Loraine Mc Grattan ERHA
Paul Mc Guire Comhairle
Ray Smyth Department of Health & Children
Michelle Slattery Irish Medicines Board
Sharon Feeney Dublin Institute of Technology
Tom Turpin Trinity College Dublin
Caroline Pfeifer HEA
Michael Farrell University College Cork
Joe Maxwell Dublin City University
Gerry Lavelle B.M.W.
Alan Richardson National Safety Council
Liam Quirke Western Health Board
Donal Devery Midland Health Board
Ken Lillis North Western Health Board
Chris Rudland MWHB
Rosalie Smith-Lynch NEHB
Wendy Hunter Forfás
J Rock CSCLAC
A. Ó hAonghusa National Library
Miriam O' Flanagan Courts Service
Sara Karlsson NSWQB
Martina Kelly Local Government Computer Services Board
Caroline Coakley Beaumont Hospital
Mary Orford ODTR
Bernadette Price Food Safety Authority of Ireland
Joe Phelan Dublin City Council
Aidan Maher Dublin City Council
Noelle O' Connell Council of Directors of Institutes of Technology
Neil Cassidy Meath County Council
Majella Byrne Environmental Protection Agency
Seán O' Toole Department of Education & Science
Maria Granfield Department of Education & Science
Peter Feeney RTE
Netta Mc Gowan Social Welfare Appeals Office
Maria Wall Federation of Voluntary Bodies
Gerry D'Arcy Companies Registration Office
David Burbridge IBTS