I rang the Data Protection Commissioner yesterday to ask some questions regarding the latest penalty points controversy.
The controversy arose when the Garda Commissioner demanded the return of documents that were handed over to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), John McGuinness, by a whistleblower.
The Data Commissioner is in full support of the Garda Commissioner’s demand for the return of the documents.
This puzzles me, as the Commissioner apparently did not see any legal problems when a whistleblower handed over documents on the same matter to his office and to several other state authorities in 2012.
Predictably, the official I spoke with was uncooperative and used the following standard list of excuses:
I’m not going to talk about what happened in 2012.
The matter is very complex.
We cannot give you answers if you were not personally involved in the incident.
The matter is confidential.
I’m not aware of the full facts and therefore cannot answer your question.
If you want answers you will have to put them in writing.
Following Email submitted to Data Protection Commissioner.
For attention of Data Protection Commissioner:
In 2012 A Garda whistleblower, without the permission of the Garda Commissioner, handed over a report documenting serious allegations of abuse of the penalty points system to the following authorities.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Justice, Minister for Transport, Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, Data Protection Commissioner, Road Safety Authority and several opposition TDs.
To my knowledge the Data Commissioner did not judge that the receipt of this report was a breach of the law.
To my knowledge the Data Commissioner did not judge that the receipt of this report by the other named authorities was a breach of the law.
It is reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that the Garda Commissioner has written to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness TD, demanding the return of documents recently provided by a whistleblower.
The Garda Commissioner is quoted as saying:
I am of the view that these files, containing personal data, are files which I am responsible for and accordingly should be returned forthwith to me.
The Data Commissioner, Mr. Hawkes, supports the Garda Commissioner’s claim that he is entitled to the return of the documents saying the he (Mr. Hawkes) has a duty to act on alleged breaches of the law.
Mr. Hawkes is quoted as saying:
I must support the Garda commissioner’s efforts to retrieve all personal data which was removed from An Garda Síochána without his authorisation.
I would be grateful if the Commissioner could answer the following questions.
Does the Commissioner believe that the handing over of documents to him in 2012 by a whistleblower alleging abuse of the penalty points system was legitimate and therefore not in breach of the law?
Does the Commissioner believe that the handing over of documents to the other named authorities by a whistleblower in 2012 alleging abuse of the penalty points system was legitimate and therefore not in breach of the law?