Written answers

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Freedom of Information

Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
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170. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of freedom of information requests being processed by his Department; the number that have had the deadline for reply extended; the number at least one week, two weeks. one month and over one month overdue, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19352/20]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is committed to meeting its obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014. In line with the guidance issued by the FOI Central Policy Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, it has worked with requesters during the COVID-19 response period to ensure the maximum number of requests are answered.

To date this year the Department has received 153 FOI requests and has issued completed responses in relation to 115.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is currently processing 38 FOI requests. Eighteen requests are in processing, two requests have had their deadlines extended with the agreement of the persons making them and eighteen requests overdue a final response as per the statutory deadlines as follows:-

FOI Requests Nos.
FOI requests overdue 1 week 3
FOI requests overdue 2 weeks 0
FOI requests overdue 3 weeks 0
FOI requests overdue 4 weeks 15
Total 18

Much of the Department’s offices have been closed for the preceding months and all but essential staff have been working remotely in line with the Government’s Road Map for Reopening Society and Business. The number of overdue requests arises from the inaccessibility of certain records. These are physical records held within offices that are closed due to social distancing measures. In these circumstances, the requesters have been notified of the delay (and the reason) in processing their requests. To date, no requester has made complaint to the Department about the delay.

These requests are retained on file and will be processed as soon as health and safety guidance is such as to permit staff to return to the office to access the records in question.

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