Why is PRONI temporarily suspending Freedom of Information requests?
In the absence of the appropriate Northern Ireland Minister, PRONI does not have the authority to complete the consultation process required under the Freedom of Information legislation. The temporary suspension applies to all transferred closed public records held by PRONI.
Why is the temporary suspension happening now?
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published three Decision Notices on the 16 October 2018 which confirmed that in the absence of the appropriate Northern Ireland Minister, PRONI does not have the authority to complete the consultation under the Freedom of Information legislation.
These Decision Notices from the ICO as regulator of FOIA has resulted in the suspension of processing requests by PRONI pending the return of a Minister with the relevant statutory responsibilities.
What is the impact of this temporary suspension?
The Public Record Office is effectively unable to comply with the requirements of the FOIA in respect of requests for transferred public records.
PRONI cannot respond under the FOIA to requests for transferred public records until the appropriate Northern Ireland Minister takes up post.
Does the new Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Act 2018 not allow for FOIA requests to be processed?
This new legislation does not empower senior officers to exercise powers which are reserved to Ministers in legislation rather than departments. It does not provide a legal basis for senior officers to allow the operation of FOIA in respect of transferred public records.
How long will this temporary suspension last?
The temporary suspension will last until the appropriate Northern Ireland Minister takes up post.
I want to complain- who should I complain to?
Complaints should be directed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
What FOI service will PRONI be able to provide?
PRONI will be able to conduct an initial search to determine if we hold any information relevant to your request. If PRONI does not hold the information or record you requested, we will confirm this. If the record is already designated as open you will be able to view it onsite or request a copy. We may be able to direct you to other records held in The National Archives, London or National Archive of Ireland, Dublin.
I want to access a record in PRONI which is a closed public– can I still submit a request to PRONI under FOIA?
Yes – applicants can continue to submit requests to PRONI under FOIA. PRONI will complete a search to establish if we hold the relevant information and the applicant will be informed of the outcome. However, PRONI will be unable to complete the request in the absence of the appropriate Northern Ireland Minister.
Do I need to submit a new request after the temporary suspension ends?
No. Applicants who have already submitted a request do not need to submit a new request when the temporary suspension ends. PRONI will progress those requests which it has received under FOIA.