Legislation Summary

1. The Ethics in Public Office Acts, 1995 and 2001

The Focus of the Ethics in Public Office Acts is to provide for disclosure of interests that could materially influence a designated person in relation to the performance of their functions. The persons covered by the Acts include Members of the Oireachtas, senior civil servants, designated directorships and designated positions of employment in public bodies. Persons holding designated directorships or occupying designated positions are required to furnish a statement of registrable interests to an officer of the body (for designated directors) or to the relevant authority for the position. Designated directors are also required to furnish a copy of any statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission. The Standards in Public Office Commission supervises the Ethics in Public Office Acts.

2. The Freedom of Information Act 2014 (PDF 782kB)

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides that every person has the following legal rights:

  • the right to access official records held by public bodies prescribed under the Act (FOI bodies);
  • the right to have personal information held on them corrected or updated where such information is incomplete, incorrect or misleading; and
  • the right to be given reasons for decisions taken by FOI bodies that affect them.

Any person may make an FOI Request under the Act, and the public body in question must normally respond within 4 weeks after acknowledging the request. In the case of large and/or complex requests this timeframe may be extended by a further 4 weeks. In Trinity the processing of FOI requests will be facilitated by Trinity's Information Compliance Office and will be dealt with by a Decision Maker in the relevant area of Trinity to which the request relates, e.g. if a requester is seeking details about their personal employments record this request will be assigned to a Decision Maker within Human Resources.
Following retrieval and examination of the requested records the Decision Maker may grant full access to the information requested, or may refuse access to some or all of the information requested based on specific grounds detailed within the Act.
Under the Act, the person who has requested the information has the right to appeal an FOI body's decision - firstly to a more senior staff member within the FOI body than the staff member who made the original decision (referred to as an Internal Reviewer), and then to the Office of the Information Commissioner if the decision is still not satisfactory. The Information Commissioner's decision in this instance is binding.
Further information on the Act can be found here https://www.tcd.ie/info_compliance/foi/legislation/

3. Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003

The Data Protection legislation currently in force applies to the acquisition, storage and processing of personal information, i.e. information about an identifiable living person. This would include information such as lists of students' names and addresses and copies of letters, memos and related materials about students or others.

All those handling personal information have duties under the Acts to:
(i) obtain and process information fairly;
(ii) keep it only for one or more specified, explicit and lawful purposes;
(iii) use and disclose it only in ways compatible with these purposes;
(iv) keep it safe and secure;
(v) keep it accurate, complete and up-to-date;
(vi) ensure that it is adequate, relevant and not excessive;
(vii) retain it for no longer than is necessary for the purpose or purposes; and
(viii) give a copy of his/her personal data to that individual, on request.

A feature of the 2003 Act is that structured manual files are now subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts.  If you store any personal information about people on your computer or on manual files, you should be aware of your responsibilities under Data Protection legislation.

Under the legislation personal information can normally ONLY be provided to the person to whom it relates. In providing people with personal information, you should be satisfied that the person is who they say they are by, for example, viewing their student card, etc.Further information is available at www.tcd.ie/info_compliance/dp/.

4. The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012

The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 which was commenced on 1 May 2013  brings over 180 additional public bodies under the remit of the Ombudsman including all Universities. This means that the Ombudsman can examine complaints made by staff, students or members of the public in relation to the administrative actions of  the College which occur on or after 1 May 2013 only. This mechanism exists in additional to all other existing internal and external appeal processes.

The other significant provisions in the 2012 Amendment Act are that:

  • public bodies under the Ombudsman's remit are legally obliged to give reasonable assistance and guidance to members of the public in the context of their administrative actions. They are also required to deal with members of the public properly, fairly, impartially and in a timely manner
  • following an investigation of a complaint, the Ombudsman may make general recommendations to public bodies under his remit even if that public body was not the focus of the complaint or investigation
  • if a person fails to comply with a request from the Ombudsman to provide specified information, documents, etc. the Ombudsman may apply to the Circuit Court for an order of compliance
  • the Ombudsman may refer any question of law to the High Court for determination

The College Secretary is the College’s nomination Ombudsman liaison office and any correspondence received from the Office of the Ombudsman should be sent to the Office of the College Secretary.

5. The Official Languages Act 2003

The aim of the Official Languages Act 2003 is to increase and improve in an organised manner, over a period of time, the quantity and quality of services provided by public sector bodies through Irish, by imposing (a) direct service obligations on such bodies, (b) providing for further obligations through Ministerial orders (regulations), and (c) requiring that public bodies prepare a three-year Language Scheme setting out an additional range of locally-relevant services to be provided bilingually.

The Office of the Languages Commissioner is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Act.

Key legal requirements affecting College under the Act and regulations:

  1. Key reports (Annual Report, Financial Statements to be published bilingually)
  2. All correspondence received in Irish to be replied to in Irish
  3. Information (mailshots) in either electronic or printed form which is directed to the general public to be made available bilingually
  4. Signage: all College signage to be bilingual- Irish to be no less prominent than English and to appear before English
  5. Stationery: all stationery to be bilingual- Irish to be no less prominent than English and to appear before English
  6. Recorded oral announcements and voicemails for main telephone numbers to be bilingual (this requirement in force by 1 July 2013)

Certain departments and areas will have specific additional obligations under College's Irish Language scheme.

Further information is available at www.tcd.ie/gaeloifig/en/acht-na-dteangacha-oifigiula/ 

6. Copyright and Related Rights Acts, 2000 to 2007

The Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 is the current Irish legislation covering copyright.   It makes provision for a Copyright Licensing Scheme, which came into effect on 13 January 2003.   The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency is recognised under this legislation as a registered body to operate a licensing scheme for reprographic copying in educational institutions.   With the introduction of the licensing scheme, copying of copyright material for educational purposes is only permissible if an educational institution has obtained a licence, or has obtained permission from the Copyright holder.   College has a licence agreement with the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency.   Details of the extent of copying permitted under the licence, and of the limits and exclusions, are specified in the licence agreement between the ICLA and the College, which are summarised in the ICLA's User Guidelines.   These documents and related information are available at www.tcd.ie/info_compliance/copyright/icla.php

Also, please note that it is an offence under the Act to distribute copyright material without authorisation via the internet, either by publishing it on a website or by distributing it to others using file-sharing programmes. Copyright owners constantly monitor the internet, including Trinity's websites, for breaches of the Act. Where copyright infringements have occurred, legal action may be taken not only against the College but also against the individuals concerned. This is a matter which the College takes very seriously and those who distribute unauthorised material via the internet are not only in breach of the Act but also contravene the College's Code of Conduct for the use of computer resources and may have their access to the College's computer facilities withdrawn.  Further information is available at www.tcd.ie/info_compliance/copyright/

It should be noted that at present the College does not hold a licence to show films other than what is provided for in legislation. Under the Copyright Related Acts 2000 the College does not infringe the copyright in films shown for educational purposes only. This exemption is quite narrow and does not cover instances where films are shown in College for purposes other than education, this could include society events, sporting events, publicity launches etc. All instances where films are shown for purposes other than educational instruction require the acquisition of a licence from the Copyright holder and therefore it is the sole responsibility of those showing the film to acquire the requisite licence. Those requiring licences should contact the Motion Picture Licensing Company (http://www.mplc.ie), which a legitimate licensing body and are registered with the Copyright Controller (as required by the Act).

7. Defamation Act 2009

The law relating to defamation has changed significantly since the passing of the Defamation Act 2009. It abolished the old distinction between libel and slander. Instead, it provides that defamation consists of the publication, by any means, of a defamatory statement concerning a person to at least one other person, and it defines a defamatory statement as one that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society.

Everyone involved in the publication of a defamatory statement is liable to be sued - including the journalist, editor or producer, owner and distributor. Repetition of a defamatory remark may give rise to separate actions, and the complainant may sue everybody who repeats the defamatory statement. In particular, those are responsible for websites can be liable for the defamatory content on the website, even if posted there by others.

The defences upon which a defendant can rely have been expanded by the new Act. Particular attention is drawn to Section 24 of the Act which provides that an apology will not constitute an express or implied admission of liability and is not relevant to the determination of liability in an action. The fact that an apology has been made will not be admissible in any civil proceedings as evidence of liability of the defendant. However, the Act provides that an offer of apology is one of the factors that the Court shall take into account in making an award of damages.

8. The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998

The Child Trafficking and Pornography Act came into force in 1998. In order to take every possible precaution to ensure that our computer systems are not used to access pornographic material and to ensure that the College, and its Officers, are not open to allegations of negligence of duty under this Act, I am contacting you to remind you of the main provisions and penalties of the Act.

Under the terms of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 it is an offence to knowingly:
(i)         produce, distribute, print or publish child pornography and to knowingly import, export, sell, show or advertise child pornography
(ii)         cause or facilitate, or encourage, any of these activities
(iii)        be in possession of any child pornography.

The provisions of this Act cover the storing, viewing or distribution of child pornography on any computer system.  Persons found guilty of any of the above offences are liable to a fine and/or prison sentence.  Any staff or student member of the College found to be in breach of the provisions of this Act shall be immediately reported to the Gardaí.

9. The Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010

The Act which was signed into law on 19 July 2010 and took effect on 1 January 2011 enables same-sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship by registering their civil partnership. From an employment perspective, the Act effectively gives same-sex civil partners the same rights as married couples.

The Act substitutes the term civil status for marital status prohibiting discrimination against a person in employment matters on the grounds that they are (or alternatively are not) in a registered civil partnership. Civil status means in each case, one of the following: being single, married, separated, divorced, widowed, in a civil partnership or formerly being in a civil partnership that has ended by death or has been dissolved. Similar to the changes made to Employment Equality Acts, all College policies which previously referred to marital status have been amended to reflect the changes and practice in legislation.