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Making an FOI request about public records

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Who can make a request under FOI?

Anyone anywhere in the world - you do not have to be a UK citizen or resident.

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How do I make an FOI request to access an historical public record?

FOI requests must be made in writing – you can contact us (by letter, email or fax) or complete a PRONI enquiry form online.
You should include your own contact details and clearly state the information you are looking for, providing as many relevant details as possible.
It is not always necessary to know the full PRONI reference (such as CAB/9B/312/8 or HA/32/1/702) or the archive you are interested in, but it is extremely helpful if you do. You will find PRONI references in the catalogues, guides, indexes and leaflets.
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Will I get access to all the information I request and who makes this decision?

PRONI has a duty to reply to your request and provide the information asked for unless specific FOI exemptions apply. In this instance, you may not be permitted to access some or all of the information you have requested.
  • Information already open to the public

    If the information you request is already open to the public, you will be advised of this. You will be free to access it at your convenience.

  • Information in closed public records

    If the information you require is currently closed to the public, PRONI will consult with the Responsible Authority who will make a recommendation as to whether or not the information should be released. For further details, see who decides if I get access?

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How long will it take to complete my FOI request?

  • Information already open to the public

    If the information you request is already open to the public, you will be advised of this within 20 working days. You can get access straight away by visiting PRONI.  Alternatively, you can use the PRONI search service or hire an independent commercial researcher to locate and provide the relevant information for you.

  • Information in closed public records

    Requests relating to historical public records which are currently closed are allowed 30 working days. This additional time is to allow PRONI to consult with the appropriate Responsible Authority who will make a recommendation as to whether or not the information should be released. However, in some cases more time may be required to consider the public interest in withholding or disclosing the information.  We will inform you if additional time may be required.  For further details, see who decides if I get access?
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Will I have to pay for the information I want?

  • Information already open to the public

    Most public records held by PRONI are already open to the public. This means that you can visit PRONI and do your own research free of charge, or hire an independent commercial researcher to do this for you.

    We will also provide advice and guidance about accessing records held by PRONI (both on-site or in response to telephone or written enquiries) free of charge.

    Under FOI, PRONI provides a search service, whereby we can look for specific information in records which are open to the public for a set fee.

  • Information in closed public records

    Some records in PRONI may be closed to the public for a number of reasons. You can make an FOI request to access the information in any closed public records.

    We will not charge you for deciding if you can access information in a closed record and we will not charge for searches in closed records.

    Information we find which is not subject to any FOI exemptions will be made available free of charge.
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Can I lodge a complaint or appeal?

You have the right to complain if you are unhappy with the way we handle your request, or with the decision which has been reached.
The letter or email you receive in response to your FOI request will provide details of the complaints/appeals procedure.
  • Internal review

    The first stage in the complaints / appeals process would be to request an internal review. This means that PRONI’s FOI Appeals Manager will examine your application, looking at the handling of your application by PRONI staff, the information you wish to access, consultation with the Responsible Authority etc.

    Further to this assessment, the FOI Appeals Manager may either revise or uphold the original decision.

    If you wish to make a complaint or request an internal review, contact PRONI in writing, marking your correspondence for the attention of the FOI Appeals Manager.

  • Information Commissioner

    If you are unhappy with the outcome of the Internal review, you may wish to contact the Information Commissioner Opens a new browser window. who will carry out an independent review of your application.

    The Information Commissioner may either revise or uphold the original decision.
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