Mr X and Department of Foreign Affairs

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date16 Sep 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed the Department's decision under sections 33(2)(b)(ii) and 33(3)(c)(ii) of the FOI Act.
RespondentDepartment of Foreign Affairs
Record NumberOIC-101809-F0X2S7
Whether the Department was justified in refusing access to records relating to the rotation of troops serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), under sections 33(1)(d), 33(2)(a), 33(2)(b)(i), 33(2)(b)(ii), 33(3)(c)(ii) or 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act

16 September 2021

Background

On 5 May 2020, the applicant made an FOI request for copies of seven categories of correspondence held by the Department concerning the rotation of troops currently serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The applicant also requested dates and times of all press contacts or releases concerning the rotation of troops serving with UNIFIL. On 12 May 2020, the applicant amended the scope of his FOI request to records created between 7 April 2020 and 12 May 2020.

On 22 October 2020, the Department issued a decision. It granted partial access to one record and it refused access to the remaining 14 records on the grounds that they are exempt under sections 33(1)(d), 33(2)(a), 33(2)(b)(i), 33(2)(b)(ii), 33(3)(c)(ii) and 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act. On 27 October 2020, the applicant applied for an internal review. On 10 December 2020, the Department issued an internal review decision, in which it affirmed its original decision. On 17 December 2020, the applicant applied to this Office for a review of the Department’s decision.

I have now completed my review in accordance with section 22(2) of the FOI Act. In carrying out my review, I have had regard to the correspondence between the applicant and the Department as outlined above and to the correspondence between this Office and both parties, as well as the content of the records that were provided to this Office by the Department for the purposes of this review.

Scope of this Review

The scope of this review is confined to the question of whether the Department was justified in refusing access to records 1 to 3, 5 to 15 and parts of record 4 under sections 33(1)(d), 33(2)(a), 33(2)(b)(i), 33(2)(b)(ii), 33(3)(c)(ii) and 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act.

Preliminary Matters

Before considering the exemptions claimed, I wish to note the following points. First, while I am required to give reasons for my decision under section 22(10) of the FOI Act, I am also required to take reasonable precautions to prevent disclosure of information in an exempt record, under section 25. This means that the extent to which I can describe the records and the level of detail I can discuss in my analysis are limited.

Secondly, with certain limited exceptions, the FOI Act does not provide for the limiting of access to records to particular individuals only. When a record is released under the FOI Act, it effectively amounts to disclosure to "the world at large" (H.(E.) v Information Commissioner [2001] IEHC 58). The FOI Act places no restrictions on the type or extent of disclosure or the subsequent use to which the record may be put.

Analysis and Findings

The Records

The records contain correspondence between the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence...

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