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Sinn Féin backs Digital Rights Ireland legal challenge to prevent 'appalling vista'

15 September, 2006

Sinn Féin's Justice spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has expressed his full support for the High Court challenge being taken by Digital Rights Ireland against the government's data retention legislation. The organisation announced yesterday that it is taking the case on the grounds that the legislation is contrary to the Constitution and existing Irish law. Deputy Ó Snodaigh, describing misuse of confidential information by Minister McDowell against political opponents, an 'appalling vista' concluded by wishing the case every success.

The Dublin South Central TD said: "A year ago Justice Minister Michael McDowell pushed an amendment introducing mandatory three-year data retention into the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act. Given the prior guarantees that any legislation around date retention would be in a separate Bill preceded by a focused Oireachtas debate, this was an unexpected move in the final hours before the Act was passed and when very few were in the Dáil chamber to debate the proposal.

"Since then there has been no progress on the long promised counterbalancing data protection laws at either the national or EU level. The advancement of ever greater data retention without these safeguards have been criticised by many from Sinn Féin and civil liberties NGOs through to the EU Data Protection Commissioner himself. I have repeatedly raised concerns around lengthy mandatory data retention and the need for greater data protection safeguards with the Minister for Justice but to no avail. There is still no sign of the long promised and necessary legislation to protect the privacy rights of individuals

"There are no adequate safeguards in place to ensure that access by the Gardaí to retained data is proportionate and necessary. They can trawl through data on thousands of citizens on mere fishing expeditions. Those with access to retained data can also abuse their position and misuse the data as we saw with Minister McDowell's use of confidential information to attack government watchdog, the Centre for Public Inquiry.

"The appalling vista of this kind of information in the hands of a government prepared to use it against their political opponents is one that should disturb a great many people. I wish the case taken by Digital Rights Ireland every success."

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