The Irish Red Cross conforms to the generic definition of a public body contained in Section 6 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 because it was established under enactment. On that basis, unless it was granted an exemption, the Irish Red Cross would automatically have become subject to FOI under the Act earlier this month.
I accepted the case made by the Department of Defence that the inclusion of the Society for FOI purposes represented an anomaly in that it had to be established under legislation to ensure, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, that only one Red Cross Society could exist in the State. It is a charitable organisation operating in an environment where both Exchequer resources and charitable donations have been reducing in recent years. Application of FOI would represent a cost for the body which would require some diversion of resources at a time when other similar organisations are not facing such costs.
On the basis of the arguments outlined above, I agreed to make an Order under Section 6 of the FOI Act 2014 to provide an exemption from FOI for the Irish Red Cross. This Order was debated at the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform on 1 April and in both the Dáil and the Seanad on 2 April. Before an Order can be made under Section 6 of the FOI Act, a positive resolution of both Houses is required. These resolutions were made on 2 April. The Order (S.I. 144 of 2015) was made on 13 April 2015.
Consideration will be given in due course to the application of FOI to bodies in receipt of Exchequer funding, including the Irish Red Cross and other similar organisations, by way of Order under Section 7 of the FOI Act.