Author Archives: Simon McGarr
The Irish State loves a good database, as regular readers will know. I was doing the washing up recently, listening to the video of a recent event in TCD’s Science Gallery when I heard about the latest one. A store of electronic health records for women and infants, starting in four maternity hospitals in the new year. This is a subsection of the wider eHealth project being run by the HSE, which also includes the Individual Health Identifier database system. […]
Max Schrems took his case when the Irish Data Protection Commissioner refused to accept his complaint that Facebook was transferring his data to the US, where he did not believe it was being treated in accordance with EU data protection law. The Commissioner rejected the complaint on the basis that it was “frivolous and vexatious” as they had no power to second-guess a EU commission decision that the Safe Harbour scheme between the EU and US provided ‘adequate’ protection. Today, the […]
Irish Government database plans may need revision after the CJEU’s Bara ruling.
Sometimes looking at these files, you can understand that it would be a bad decision to release them. In particular, the files from An Garda Síochána are going to contain sensitive material. And, files containing Criminal Intelligence Reports (presumably, though I’m no expert, including data from informers) must surely be some of the most sensitive. And yet.. and yet. The National Archives Act allows that a file can hold both sensitive and non-sensitive historical records and, for a S8(4) certificate […]
Part of the reason I asked for these files was because I was curious as to how reflexively the state would want to keep things secret. The thirty year rule was set so that we could understand our own recent history and historians could, in future, make sense of the broader narrative of the State’s development. In a way, from my small 4-year sample, there’s an indication that, at least when it comes to historical documents, most departments aren’t trying […]
I’m not sure I really need to say much more than that here. Seriously, a secret Shergar file, from the Irish Embassy in London. Who could resist? The info in file 3/175 runs from 1983 to 1984. I guess, seeing as Iveagh House isn’t going to tell us, we’ll have to rely on Tesco to spill the beans.
Dealing with these files sometimes throws up questions of balance. After all, you can see why personal data relating to job inquiries or sometimes even sensitive family matters such as adoptions shouldn’t be released heedlessly into the public domain. But in 2013 the Department of Foreign Affairs decided that file 250/1048, containing “Meteorological Data” covering the years 1953-1981 should be kept secret. The Certificate cites Section 8(4)(a) which requires that the file being withheld shouldn’t be released because it (a) would […]
This is doubtless just your standard fertiliser to make daffodils and such bloom even more lovely. It’s just that, for whatever reason, the Department of Justice thinks that the details of what happened between 1978 and 1981 when they explored the manufacturing of fertiliser by getting the army to test it are still not ready to see the light of day, some thirty years later.
I have no idea what happened over the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend of 1971. I mean, I’m sure lots of things must have happened. But whatever it was that happened in the “Central Statsitics Office Establishment” that weekend, the Department of the Taoiseach thinks that thirty years isn’t enough time for us to know.
I’ve written before about the Irish state’s love of all things secret. When I went rummaging in the legislation that governs how the state keeps things from becoming known I spotted one little moment in the chain when we could- at least obliquely- get a peep at what was being hidden from us. Every year, the state’s agencies and ministries are meant to send their files that are 30 years old to the National Archives, where they are free for […]