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Snooping Powers must be subjected to Independent Judicial Oversight – Mac Lochlainn

21 January, 2016 - by Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Justice and Equality, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD, today supported the concerns outlined by Digital Rights Ireland and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) regarding the proposed review of the Data Retention Act 2011.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn supported the statement by ICCL, describing the Minister for Justice’s restriction of the review of the Data Retention Act 2011 to the communications data of journalists as “implausible”.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

“Sinn Féin recognises that the Gardaí and state authorities need to have surveillance powers in order to combat criminality.

“However, the shoddy oversight of snooping powers used by the state authorities undermines the reputation of Gardaí and does not help build the trust that people need to have in their police service for it to function properly.

“We have seen before how individual Gardaí have used their snooping powers to monitor the movements and activities of ex-partners has gone unpunished.

 “With the restriction of the review of snooping powers to journalists alone, the Minister is engaged in an electioneering exercise to assuage a particular constituency that Fine Gael needs to court. It is a cynical attempt to head off criticism by the media of Fine Gael in the run-up to the election.

“The comment by Minister Fitzgerald that former Chief Justice Murray’s  legislative review would “take too long” if it covered the snooping of the public’s communication records is only true from the point of view that an election is imminent.

“Like the closure of rural Garda stations and the reduction in Garda numbers, the government’s response to alleged abuse of snooping powers directly undermines confidence in the public’s police service.

“The people of this state need to have the confidence that surveillance powers are used in a proportionate, supervised and authorised way before they can safely delegate to state authorities the powers to detect criminal behaviour through surveillance and data access.

“Sinn Féin suggests that any review of the Data Retention Act 2011 also includes an assessment of proposals for adequate, supervised, prior judicial authorisation of both surveillance and data access.”

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