July 30, 2020
Government must answer questions in Dáil over possible illegal collection of data at airports – Louise O’Reilly TD

Louise OR' ReillySinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers Rights Louise O’Reilly has said that the government has serious questions to answer on the collection and processing of passenger data at airports and seaports after the Data Protection Commission cast doubt on the legality of doing so.

Sinn Féin have today written to the Ceann Comhairle requesting that “An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, come into a special sitting of the Dáil next week to answer questions on this possibly illegal situation.”

Speaking today, Teachta O’Reilly said: “Earlier this week I wrote to the Data Protection Commissioner regarding the collection and processing of passenger data at airports and seaports, asking that she investigate the situation.

“At the time, I queried the legality of these checks, and today the DPC has cast serious doubt about whether social welfare inspectors were acting lawfully when collecting and processing passenger data at ports and airports in relation to Pandemic Unemployment Payment payments.

“The Deputy Data Protection Commissioner, Graham Doyle, has stated that ‘the DPC cannot see how this practice of collecting information from all passengers simply on the basis they are travelling to a certain destination conforms with the powers of inspectors under the 2005 Act to act and question (and therefore collect data from) a passenger where they have reasonable grounds to believe there has been a contravention’.

“This brings into question the judgement of the minister or ministers who instructed these inspectors to carry out these data checks for the purpose of suspending the welfare payments of travelling passengers.

“There are many questions which need to be answered about this situation and it cannot be let slide off the agenda due to the Dáil recess.

“Given the serious nature of this matter, and the doubts cast on the legality of the action by the DPC, it is imperative that the An Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, come into a special sitting of the Dáil next week to answer questions on this murky and possibly illegal situation.”

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