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Ireland

Develop and Deliver Access to Environmental Information (AIE) Training Module for Public Officials (IE0017)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland, First Action Plan, 2014-16

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DEC&LG)

Support Institution(s): Environment Pillar, Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG)

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Environment and Climate, Records Management, Right to Information

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: No

Early Results: Major Major

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Public Accountability , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Build capacity of public bodies to provide Access to Information on the Environment under the Aarhus Convention – Development and delivery of a training module to train staff in public bodies on access to environmental information as provided for in the Aarhus Convention. This module will cover both responding to AIE requests and proactive dissemination of environmental information. It will also provide information on the requirements of both European and national implementing legislation and on case law. In parallel it is proposed to create a database which will record requests for information under AIE regulations, including statistics on number of requests granted, refused or partially refused. This database will provide a basis for analysis of requests similar to that which is in place for FoI;

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Cluster 2: Citizen Participation (2.2.1, 2.2.2, ✪2.3)

2.2.1 – Undertake public engagement early in the legislative process

2.2.2 – (A) and (B) Build capacity of public bodies to provide Access to Information on the Environment under the Aarhus Convention

2.3 – Hold Referenda arising from the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention

Commitment Text:

Action 2.2.1 – Undertake public engagement early in the legislative process: For increased citizen participation at Committee level in the legislative process through systematic pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills will provide greater opportunities for engagement by the public in law making. At the pre-legislative stage, the Committee can consult with citizens, civic society groups and other interested groups;

Action 2.2.2 (A) and (B) –  Build capacity of public bodies to provide Access to Information on the Environment under the Aarhus Convention – Development and delivery of a training module to train staff in public bodies on access to environmental information as provided for in the Aarhus Convention. This module will cover both responding to AIE requests and proactive dissemination of environmental information. It will also provide information on the requirements of both European and national implementing legislation and on case law. In parallel it is proposed to create a database which will record requests for information under AIE regulations, including statistics on number of requests granted, refused or partially refused. This database will provide a basis for analysis of requests similar to that which is in place for FoI;

Action 2.3 – Hold Referenda arising from the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention: Arising from the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, the Government has so far committed to holding three referenda in 2015 in relation to: reduce the age of candidacy for Presidential elections, reducing voting age, same sex marriage.

Responsible institution:

Action 2.2.1: Houses of the Oireachtas

Action 2.2.2: DEC&LG Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DEC&LG)

Action 2.3: Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DEC&LG) and DJ&E Department of Justice and Equality (DJ&E)

Supporting institution(s): Action 2.2.2: Environment Pillar, Environmental Law Implementation Group (ELIG)

Start date: 1 July 2014                                                   End date: December 2015

 

 

Editorial note: Commitment 2.3 is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented and therefore qualifies as a starred commitment. 

Commitment Aim

The broad theme of these actions related to fostering citizen participation in legislative decision making, increasing public integrity, and promoting the culture of transparency and accountability. These objectives were to be achieved in three ways. First, Action 2.2.1 introduced the procedure of pre-legislative scrutiny, which allows individuals, CSOs, and interest groups to participate via consultation in decision making early in the legislative process, something that was not possible before the action plan. Second, under the Aarhus Convention, Action 2.2.2 implements a database to record the requests for information on the environment. This commitment represents a new fundamental step towards the access to information for citizens, interest groups, and public bodies at all levels of government. Third, Action 2.3 committed to hold referenda on the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention. As recommended by the Convention, the government committed to holding three referenda in 2015 in relation to marriage equality, reducing the age of candidacy for presidential elections, and reducing the voting age.

Status

Midterm

2.2.1: Complete

2.2.2 (A&B): Substantial

2.3 (): Substantial

As discussed in the IRM midterm report, before the action plan, the actions were pre-existing policies on the government’s agenda. For example, Parliament expanded and formalized the pre-legislative consultation phase of legislation in November 2013. After the action plan was adopted, it opened the debate around active citizenship. From the development of the action plan in 2014 several goals were achieved in the first year of the action plan including, inter alia as discussed in the midterm report which is available online,

  • Fourty eight bills in total were considered under the pre-legislative consultation, resulting in 43 committee reports. Under this form of consultation, Ministers can have the Heads of a Bill (i.e. the outline of the Bill) reviewed by the appropriate Oireachtas (i.e. parliamentary) committee before the drafting process is completed and the bill published. The review process in the committee can involve hearings with stakeholders or invitations to send submissions. The use of pre-legislative scrutiny via committees is expected to continue on an ongoing basis.
  • Collaboration with CSOs (e.g., Environmental Pillar, Environmental Law Implementation Group) in bilateral meetings to discuss the implementation of the Access to Information on the Environmental (AIE) policy. There was also collection of environmental data for 2013. By July 2015, the delivery of training sessions to over 120 civil servants in public bodies at the local and national level of government on the use and relevance of environmental data took place.
  • The organization of two referenda were held in May 2015. Action 2.3 has been praised for its deliberative nature, particularly the marriage equality referendum, which gained international media exposure.

As such, Action 2.2.1 was considered complete after the midterm.

End of term

2.2.1: Complete

2.2.2 (A&B): Substantial

2.3 (): Substantial

With Action 2.2.1 (establishment of a procedure of systematic pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills) completed by the end of year one, attention is now focused on the other two remaining actions. Regarding the training on Access to Environmental Information, incomplete implementation may be due in part to the delays of forming government after elections in February 2016. For example, as seen in the government end of term self-assessment report, 2015 statistics on AEI information requests are still being compiled and will be published soon, and a third training event is being planned for Q4 (i.e. at the end of) 2016. Regarding Action 2.3, at the start of year two, only two of the three referenda outlined in the original action plan have been held. Based on the government’s end of term self-assessment report, as well as desk research, this is still the case at the end of year two. Given these observations, both 2.2.2 and 2.3 Actions’ progress may be deemed substantial, but not complete.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Major (2.2.1 & 2.2.2)

Civic participation: Marginal (2.2.1), Major (2.3)

Public accountability: Did not change (2.2.2)

 Regarding opening government: 

  1. On Action 2.2.1, the procedure of pre-legislative scrutiny is expected to have strong effects on the use of forms of participatory democracy. Although it is difficult to gauge if this will continue to be conducted in the same sustainable manner as it had been up to the change in government, there has been a change to the initial status quo (when pre-legislative scrutiny was absent) as information on 48 bills were considered under pre-legislative consultation. If this trend continues, this may create avenues for increased public participation in the legislative process if all bills go through pre-legislative scrutiny.
  2. On Action 2.2.2, the AIE training module is ongoing, and it remains difficult to assess the effects of the policy on public accountability, where one civil society leader said that the training sessions of public bodies could have been more fully promoted to include a larger audience of civil servants. However, the record of information requests has been updated annually and is available online.[Note 13: http://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/sub-type/aie-logs/type/statistics?query=%5D
  3. Finally, on Action 2.3, the effect of the action has been transformative. As a form of deliberative democracy, the Constitutional Convention and the referenda have promoted the participation of citizens on constitutional matters. Although no other referenda have taken place, this practice fundementally changed the precedent of citizen participation in national debates.

Carried forward?

These actions have not been carried forward in the next action plan. The IRM researcher concludes that the main challenge of this cluster has been achieving completion of the AIE training modules and information request database. It is recommended that the state ensure the availability of resources (staff and funding) for these tasks to be done.

Additionally, the IRM researcher recommends, that the government hold the remaining referendum that was outlined in the action plan, and consider which other issues may be opened for a referendum in the future.


Ireland's Commitments

  1. Promote Transparent Climate Policy Development

    IE0031, 2016, Environment and Climate

  2. Support Public Participation Networks

    IE0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Access to Justice: Reducing Costs

    IE0033, 2016, Judiciary

  4. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

    IE0034, 2016, Judiciary

  5. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

    IE0035, 2016, Justice

  6. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

    IE0036, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: Youth

    IE0037, 2016, Marginalized Communities

  8. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0038, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve Access to Government Services Through Technology

    IE0039, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Participatory Budgeting

    IE0040, 2016, Participation in Budget Processes

  11. Improve Transparency of Government Service Providers

    IE0041, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  12. Enhance Fiscal Transparency

    IE0042, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

    IE0043, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Develop an Open Data Strategy 2017-2020

    IE0044, 2016, E-Government

  15. Invest in Data Infrastructure That Will Result in Better Open Data

    IE0045, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Starred commitment Develop a Code of Practice for the Governance of Charities

    IE0046, 2016,

  17. Starred commitment Public Sector Standards Bill

    IE0047, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Establish a Register of Beneficial Ownership

    IE0048, 2016, Asset Disclosure

  19. Establishment of Best Practice Standards for Open Data

    IE0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Establishment of Ireland’S Open Data Platform

    IE0002, 2014, E-Government

  21. Undertake an Audit of Key Datasets for Publication

    IE0003, 2014, Open Data

  22. Establish a Roadmap for the Open Data and an Evaluation Framework to Provide Assessment of the Ongoing Open Data

    IE0004, 2014, Open Data

  23. Establishment of an Open Data Ireland Governance Board (ODIGB) and Steering and Implementation Group (SIG) for Open Data Ireland

    IE0005, 2014, Open Data

  24. Signing up to the G8 Open Data Charter

    IE0006, 2014, Open Data

  25. Implementing Open Data

    IE0007, 2014, Open Data

  26. Improve Computer Literacy Through Implementation of Proposed New Digital Strategy for Schools

    IE0008, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Review National and International Practice to Develop Revised Principles / Code for Public Engagement/Consultation with Citizens, Civil Society and Others by Public Bodies.

    IE0009, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Starred commitment Hold Referenda Arising from the Recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

    IE0010, 2014, Gender

  29. Starred commitment Ethics Reform

    IE0011, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  30. Strengthening Freedom of Information - Implement the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information (FOI).

    IE0012, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  31. Reform of FOI

    IE0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Starred commitment Regulation of Lobbying

    IE0014, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Starred commitment Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections

    IE0015, 2014, Whistleblower Protections

  34. Measures to Increase Citizen Participation in Decision Making on Policy and Legislative Proposals. Systemic Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of Draft Bills

    IE0016, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  35. Develop and Deliver Access to Environmental Information (AIE) Training Module for Public Officials

    IE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Increase Citizen Participation at Local Level. Pilot Approach to Implementation of Public Participation Networks

    IE0018, 2014, Private Sector

  37. Provide Legal Base for Public Participation Framework in Local Government

    IE0019, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Undertake a Feasibility Study on Possible Means of Enabling Further Citizen Engagement in Local Authority Budgetary Processes

    IE0020, 2014, Participation in Budget Processes

  39. Support Children and Young People as Citizens. Develop, Finalise and Publish the First Government Strategy on Children and Young People's Participation in Decision-Making.

    IE0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  40. Maximise Participation and Understanding of Young People in Civic Life

    IE0022, 2014, Capacity Building

  41. Development of an ICT Strategy

    IE0023, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  42. Data Sharing and Governance Bill

    IE0024, 2014, E-Government

  43. Public Services Card

    IE0025, 2014, E-Government

  44. Single Customer View

    IE0026, 2014, E-Government

  45. Local Government Portal

    IE0027, 2014, E-Government

  46. New Local Enterprise Offices

    IE0028, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  47. Review and Enhancement of Complaints Procedures and Using Feedback to Improve Services Across the Public Service; a Review of Citizen Complaints Procedures Will Be Undertaken.

    IE0029, 2014, Public Participation

  48. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0030, 2014, Public Participation