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What are the benefits of FOI?

The introduction of freedom of information in 1998 was a milestone in terms of defining the relationship between the administration and the citizen in Ireland. Effectively it substituted the presumption of openness in relation to official information for the presumption of secrecy which had existed up to then.

It also allowed both citizens and commentators to become much more informed on the deliberations which preceded decisions affecting them. Before FOI, the work of the administration was carried out behind closed doors in accordance with legislation such as the Official Secrets Act.

The introduction of FOI lifted this veil of secrecy for the first time allowing information relating to the governing of the State to be made available to the public. FOI has also been instrumental in bringing issues of vital public concern into the public domain and has facilitated stronger oversight of the actions of government and the public service. With the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act 2014, freedom of information in Ireland has been further developed.

The wide range of restrictions in relation to access which were introduced in 2003 were removed, FOI has been extended to all public bodies, subject to limited exemptions in whole or in part and the Act gives the power for FOI to be extended to non-public bodies significantly funded by the State. The legislation, which had been in place for over fifteen years was also modernised, consolidated and simplified.