Written Answers. - Freedom of Information Act.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

518 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Finance the plans, if any, he has to provide for the publication of a register, accessible via the Internet or otherwise, of all successful applications to Government Departments for information sought under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2006/99]

I appreciate the spirit in which the Deputy raises this issue. However, I have no plans at this juncture to publish a register of all successful applications to Government Departments for information sought under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

A number of critical issues argue against publication of such information. First, of the order of 50 per cent of FOI applications to date have been from individuals seeking personal information relating to themselves. This proportion is set to rise in the light of the extension of the FOI Act to health boards and local authorities late last year. It is essential to have full regard to the privacy rights of such requesters. Hence publication of their identity or the content of their applications would not be appropriate.
Second, and at a broader level it is important to encourage confidence and usage by the public generally in the Act. I would be concerned that the prospect of publication of a register of FOI applications at this stage could deter members of the public from exercising their rights under the Act.