Officials at the Department of Health told to stop redacting the names of public servants from records they released under FOI

One of the single-biggest issues affecting Freedom of Information in Ireland is the frequent redaction of the names of officials from records.

Right to Know has highlighted this repeatedly over the past year as every other week we receive records where names have been removed, often making the records hard to follow or borderline incomprehensible.

We have raised this issue with the Department of Public Expenditure and the Information Commissioner but it appears that confusion persists.

Twice in recent months, the Department of Health released records to us with the names of staff members redacted.

However, internal emails detail how the advice given by the department’s FOI office should have left little doubt about how to handle this type of information.

One email said: “Regardless of grade, any and all civil servants named in their official capacity, should not be redacted from documents released under FOI. So, our names, our grades, our units, our office addresses, are all releasable. None of those details is private.”

It added: “Personal information relates only to actual personal matters, (such as names on a HR document that was sensitive in nature – e.g. sick leave issue). But if documents are just naming us because that’s where we work or we wrote the letter or email in question, then we have no right to redaction.”

If you’re involved in making FOI decisions in any public body, these records are worth a few minutes of your time.