The 1997 Freedom of Information Act (FOI), as amended by the 2003 Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act required that governmental departments, the Health Service Executive, local authorities and a range of other public offices publish information regarding their activities. They were also required to make the information they held, which included personal information, available upon request to members of the public.
The Access to Information of Environmental Importance (AIE) operates similarly to FOI, but is specifically concerned with matters that impact upon the environment. AIE derives from Europe, and there is a concern that Ireland has not yet properly implemented it amongst appropriate public bodies. This is due to the fact that there have been no mandatory timeframes for such proceedings, differing to FOI where there are.
Unless this is rectified it could well become a problem, creating undesirable delays in litigation. This is of obvious concern, not only to clients themselves but also given the fact that when it comes to issues of environmental damage, time is off the essence and accessible information is essential.
As a step before mounting litigation, O’Connell and Clarke solicitors raise FOI/AIE requests on behalf of their clients. Gathering information held by public bodies is essential to give the most informed advice prior to litigation, forming a focused and informed case.