Tag Archives: Irish Council for Civil Liberties


This afternoon.

Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to Minister for health Stephen Donnelly about the necessity of the vaccine pass.

The ICCL has said the pass system has been developed without any ‘meaningful consideration of human rights’.

Mr Herrick writes:

We ask you, Minister, to please clarify the following:

What is the purpose of the Government’s vaccine certificate system?

The purpose matters because it affects the proportionality and necessity of the measure. If it is to persuade people to get vaccinated, this raises concerns about the future ramifications or possible expansion of “health passports” and the subsequent impacts of such on everyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated. If it is to reduce transmission, the certificate system should include testing.

Why is testing still being omitted from the certificate system?

There is a provision in the Act [Health (Amendment) (No.2) Act 2021] to allow for a “permitted person” to include someone who can show proof of a negative test. It’s utterly unclear why this hasn’t been provided.

Where is the evidence that the immunity certificate system to date has worked in curbing the transmission of Covid-19?

It is vital that this evidence is forthcoming, given the context of extremely high rates of vaccination in the population generally and particularly the age cohorts accessing hospitality.

This is also vital, in the context of persistent transmission of Covid between vaccinated people in all settings.’


Full letter here

Irish Council for Civil Liberties

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has contacted Fabian Salvioli (above), the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence about the Mother and Baby Home report

This morning.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to the UN expert on truth, justice, and reparations regarding the Mother and Baby Homes Commission report.

The ICCL warned Fabian Salvioli, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, of the ‘real possibility’ that the government’s plan to deal with historic and ongoing rights violations ‘will be insufficient to meet Ireland’s human rights commitments under international law’.

Via Irish Council for Civil Liberties:

In our letter to we outline where the government plan falls short when it comes to investigations with teeth, identity rights, and exhumations.

We also flag two main problems with the Institutional Burials Bill. The first is that it disapplies the Coroners Act. This means inquests to establish cause of death may not be carried out – in violation of survivors’ right to truth about what happened to their loved ones.

We recommend that inquests should be carried out into mass institutional burials as a matter of course.

The second issue is the list of restrictions for carrying out excavations – including the presence of dwellings on the site. For example, the burial site of 836 children at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home has not been established, but the Bill would appear to exclude the possibility of excavating this site, as there are dwellings already there and planning permission in the pipeline for more.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission recognised that “it is highly likely that the burials did take place in the grounds of Bessborough. The only way that this can be established is by an excavation of the entire property, including those areas that are now built on.”

The process for identifying or locating burial sites is unclear and not provided for by this Bill. ICCL flags this key gap in our letter to the UN and recommends that government provides a clear and transparent process to identify and locate potential burial sites.

ICCL recommends that government either amends this Bill so that it is line with the UN framework for Transitional Justice, or that it scraps the Bill and amends the Coroners Act to allow for excavations of mass burial sites associated with institutions.

Read letter in full here

Irish Council For Civil Liberties

This morning/afternoon

In 2015, the [Supreme Court] ruled that evidence obtained unconstitutionally could be admitted if a garda claims to have had no knowledge of the breach .

Via The Irish Times:

[The so-called “green garda/good faith” exception) in practice means that a garda can inadvertently breach a citizen’s fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy from the government, without there being any repercussions in relation to the evidence gathered.

….The Irish Council for Civil Liberties  (ICCL) commissioned a report on the impact of the new rule five years out from the decision.

Practitioners said that the greatest impact of the decision is before the case ever gets to trial. Two-thirds of practitioners said they changed their advice to clients after JC because “you know they are not going to win”.

As citizens in a democracy, we may well wonder whether the “real chilling effect”, strong sense of inertia and defeatism that JC has reportedly induced, are qualities we may wish for among criminal law practitioners. Rates of guilty pleas, according to the DPP’s most recent report, now stand at 92 per cent in Ireland.

“While several referenced a drive towards professionalisation of policing in recent years, there was also an acknowledgment that not all elements within the force adhere to high standards.

Experienced practitioners referred during interviews to gardaí lying when giving evidence, threatening to arrest close relatives, planting evidence and physically assaulting clients.”

Ill-effects of change to law on evidence starting to manifest (Irish Times)


From top: Johnny Ryan, Of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; Helen Dixon, Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner: A video explaining Real-Time Bidding (RTB)  and ‘the biggest data breach in history’

This morning.

Google and several data brokers are violating the EU’s privacy rules by harvesting people’s personal information to build highly detailed online profiles including some firms’ collection of information on sexual orientation, health status and religious beliefs, according to a report published today.

Via PIltico.eu

The accusations — from Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, an NGO — come 18 months after Ireland’s privacy regulator began a probe into how Google collects and shares people’s online information for its advertising business.

Several other European data protection authorities subsequently received separate complaints into so-called real-time bidding (RTB), a system by which advertisers use data to target people with paid-for messages when they surf the web.

Ryan said the real-time bidding system, which broadcasted web users’ online behavior and habits to multiple advertising companies and data brokers, infringed on the region’s privacy rules that required data to be kept secure and used proportionately.

The [Irish Data Protection] Commission has failed to stop that ongoing biggest data breach in history and as a consequence people across Europe and in Ireland are exposed to intimate profiling including of health conditions and political views and location over time, because the RTB system leaks that data into the data broker market,” he told POLITICO.

Google and data brokers accused of illegally collecting people’s data: report (Politico.eu)


This morning

RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne.

Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), spoke about the implications of a possible “crackdown through legislation on gatherings in homes”.

Liam Herrick: “I think the idea that we’re leaping to more criminalisation of private behaviour implies, first of all, that the Government has done all that it can do to deal with proven evidence of problem areas such as direct provision and meat plants and nursing homes. And it also assumes that the Government has exhausted all of its resources in terms of clear public health communication and support of the community and, only as a last resort, has leaping to criminalisation.

“I think they are two assumptions that are very, very questionable, given what we’ve seen over the last number of weeks.”

Claire Byrne: “But given what we know, right, about what’s happening with the cases of Covid-19 and we heard last night there’s nearly 400 clusters. We also heard that 252 of those clusters relate to social gatherings in private households. So we have a problem.”

Herrick: “Well, let’s define, Claire, what do they mean by social gathering in private households. If we’re talking criminalising gatherings of more than six people in a private home. There are almost an infinite range of events or situations in which more that six people might gather in a home. My family has seven people in it so does this mean that if we have two more people into the home from two other households, we’re committing a criminal offence?

“Other people share houses, rented accommodation, where there may be more than six people renting the house. They may wish to have one or two friends to attend them. You can have family events, people can be caring for each other. The idea of this kind of social gathering being blurred with the purported problem of house parties of 100s of young people gathering at locations is I think very problematic and the idea that there are clusters and outbreaks – well, are these linked to large events? Or are they linked to the fact that young people are being encouraged to go back out into the economy and work and because, inevitably, they’re coming into contact with community transmission that there may be problems in homes.

I think this is a very unproven, vague and I would say something that really can’t be dealt with properly by the law and this is without, of course, looking at the huge, legal obstacles that we are dealing with here. We have the protection of the family home, the inviolability of the dwelling and the right to private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“And if we are talking about inserting the criminal law into the ordinary family and private life of members of the community, I think the Government has to go much, much further to make a case for such drastic action.”

Byrne: “I suppose though, if you’re looking at those numbers though, as they have been on the increase in the last number of weeks, the alternative to doing something like this is another lockdown?”

Herrick: “Well, this is, I think, the absurdity here. We don’t have, at present, restrictions on movement outside of one particular county. So we’re saying to people: you’re free to move about, you’re free to work, you’re free to go to a pub, you’re free to go to a restaurant, but we are considering criminalising you inviting a small number of people into your home. And we’re saying that we can’t trust you to behave responsibly in your own home.

I mean we have the absurd situation at present that you can’t attend a small sporting event, a GAA, soccer event with 100 or 200 people, you can go to a pub to watch the same event. But we’re now saying to people that they won’t be able to invite one or two friends over to watch the same event in their own home. And I think we really are in danger here of bringing the law into disrepute.

“And the idea that the guards would be drawn into policing private behaviour is, I think, going against the whole ethos of what the guards have tried to, and succeeded in doing, over the last couple of months, is strengthening the relationship with the community.”

Byrne: “I see what you’re saying and it makes logical sense but I suppose, on the other hand, we do have this problem and it’s really difficult to square the circle isn’t it? I mean for the authorities that are dealing with this, how do we control the infection rates without telling people, through legislation if they need to, to stop gathering indoors?”

Herrick: “I think what we’re losing here is the logic and the coherence of how we go from public health advice to the Government weighing that up and making policy decisions and only as a last resort introducing legislation that is necessary and proportionate. I think as we moved away from the phases that we had earlier, as NPHET has been given a role of actually recommending criminal sanctions it seems now and there is a confusion, at a very profound level now between what’s advice, what’s regulation, and what’s law.

“I think we are losing the coherence of our approach. The public had accepted incredible restrictions on their rights and at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, we accept the need for many of the restrictions that have been introduced but they need to be done in a lawful way, they need to be done only where necessary and proportionate and I think we are now leaping to very invasive, criminal sanctions without the Government actually articulating the necessity.

Why, for example, are we going to have restrictions on private homes when we don’t have restrictions on movements between homes. And I think that the Government really needs to be doing more to explain this rather all of us only reading about this in The Irish Times this morning. I mean two weeks ago we were told the Government were considering primary legislation, now it seems this is going to be one of the health regulations.

“I mean, it really is not a proper to go about dealing with the public on such an important matter.”

Listen here


RTÉ reporting:

“Cabinet is set to give gardaí three new enforcement powers to close pubs that do not serve food or maintain social distancing on the premises.”

….”Government continues to worry about the impact of social gatherings in houses on Covid-19, but it is not considering legislation today that could give gardaí powers to enter a home where more than six people are visiting.”


Part of The Report Card for the HSE/Department of Health Covid tracker app includes reference to Google Firebase and Twillo possibly obtaining patient data

This morning/afternoon.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) have issued a report card evaluating the HSE/Department of Health Covid-19 tracker app prior to its launch.

How did it do?

Regarding the app’s efficacy, experts have given the app a D.

Dr Stephen Farrell, Research Fellow, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin (speaking in a personal capacity, said:

“We have no clear evidence before us that the app accurately detects close contacts to Covid-19. In the alternative, our independent research shows that app signalling accuracy varies substantially depending on user environments.”

Regarding the app’s clear and limited purpose, experts have given the app a D.

ICCL’s Information Rights Director Elizabeth Farries said:

“European data protection guidance says Covid-19 apps must pursue a single purpose of contact tracing to alert people potentially exposed to Covid-19. Unfortunately, location data and symptom tracking extend beyond this single purpose.”

Regarding the app’s statutory oversight, experts have given the app a C.

Digital Rights Ireland Director Antóin Ó Lachtnáin said:

“We would question the legal basis of consent the government appears to be relying on under the GDPR. Furthermore, long term, we are very concerned that Google/Apple will have ultimate control over most of the EU’s Covid-19 app ecosystem, and not our governments.”

We’re not angry.

Just disappointed.


Full report card here.

Experts Issue Pre-Release Report Card on the HSE Covid-19 Tracker App (ICCL)

Small ads in irish newspapers in the 1950s and 1960s

This morning.

Today is International Day of the Disappeared.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has reiterated its call for the Government to ratify the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED).


‘It is essential that government appropriately address the potential enforced disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of children from mother and baby homes and the ongoing legacy of harm caused by this.

In particular, we point to the failure to locate the burial site of 836 children at the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home and the failure to exhume the burial place of 796 children at Tuam as two examples of practices that could constitute enforced disappearances in this country.

If ratified CED, the State would be obliged to prevent the withholding of information and to impose sanctions on those who have information and do not share it.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has said they believe information was withheld from them, and indeed that Church bodies provided information which was “speculative, inaccurate and misleading”.

CED would require investigators to have the necessary powers and resources to conduct the investigation effectively.

Through its continuing failure to compel witnesses to give evidence to processes of investigation, the State is helping to hide the truth and ensuring families of the disappeared remain in the dark.

If it ratified CED, the State would also be obliged to hold the perpetrators of these human rights violations criminally accountable. ICCL is concerned that the government’s current strategy of investigation is hindering future access to evidence, and thereby preventing prosecutions, by prioritising secrecy over transparency.

We are particularly concerned that the Retention of Records Bill, which is currently passing through the Oireachtas, will seal all evidence given to the Mother and Baby Homes Commission for 75 years.

This is particularly worrying given that An Garda Síochána could not carry out prosecutions stemming from the Ryan report because of the Commission’s similar terms of reference.

In 2016, when the UN Committee Against Torture demanded to know why there had been no prosecutions, the State reported that the perpetrators identified in that report could not be named.

This approach to potential evidence of criminal wrongdoing is inexcusable, particularly given all that has come to light over the past year, including the falsification of adoption certificates, the possibility that the state was complicit in what could be considered child trafficking, and the ongoing struggle of adoptees to access their basic information, including birth certificates.

ICCL has repeatedly called for information to be provided to those who were illegally or forcibly adopted in Ireland during the twentieth century but the State has yet to respond appropriately.

Despite numerous apologies and gestures towards restorative justice for survivors of the cruel and inhumane system of institutionalisation of the most vulnerable in this country, the State is still not living up to its obligations to survivors or families of victims.

It must act to properly address the ongoing legacy and harm caused by the range of human rights violations that occurred in these institutions.’

ICCL calls for action on disappeared children (ICCL)

 Members of the Garda Riot Squad (Public Order Unit), during the National Emergency Service Parade in Dublin City Centre last September

This morning.

Via The Irish Council For Civil Liberties

ICCL travelled to Cork, Ennis and Dublin between 19 and 22 June to meet with environmental activists, anti-war protesters, anti-eviction groups, and activists living in Direct Provision. We also met with representatives of An Garda Síochána and relevant oversight bodies.

…We received reports of garda misuse of the Public Order Act (through arresting protesters and later dropping charges), of garda intimidation of protesters (through photography, following cars, harassment, and stop-and-search), of serious deficiencies in GSOC handling of complaints, and of gardaí imposing limits on where people can protest without a clear basis in law.

International standards state that sit-ins and meetings are protected by the right to protest and may extend to private spaces accessible to the public.

However, we heard a number of serious specific issues around protests at or near privately owned land – including during evictions and at Direct Provision centres.

We received reports that gardaí themeslves are evicting protesters from squats when media are not present. Protesters have also been arrested from public spaces such as city councils.

We received reports that gardaí have subjected those arrested at protests to treatment that interferes with their right to dignity, including psychological trauma, strip-searching and being forced to squat and cough.

Arrested protesters have allegedly been encouraged to give statements without lawyers present, and in some cases even denied access to their lawyers.

We are extremely concerned that the rights to assembly, to free expression and to free association are being curtailed by private operators of Direct Provision centres, allegedly with the support of An Garda Síochána.

Residents informed us that their meetings have been labelled “illegal”, that people have been escorted in handcuffs to public spaces where they are “allowed” to protest, and that food and benefits have been withheld in response to protests.

ICCL highlights urgent concerns for the right to protest following national consultation (ICCL)

Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews

From top: Paschal Donohoe, then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, launches the Public Services Card (PSC) in 2016; Oireachtas justice committee, Anna Morgan and Jennifer O’Sullivan, of the Data Protection Commission; and Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly

This morning.

Members of the Data Protection Commission are appearing before the Oireachtas justice committee which includes Independents 4 Change TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly.

In January the Department of Employment and Social Protection refused to release information with regard to the an investigation by the DPC into the legality of the public services card.

The request for the information was made by the the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

Instead, the DPC confirmed to The Irish Times that the DPC doesn’t intend to publish its report in full.

This morning, the DPC told the committee they will publish final report with the department’s permission.

But the department has previously said it will not publish the report without the DPC’s permission.

In addition, asked if the DPC agrees with Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina saying the Public Services Card doesn’t involve biometric data processing, the DPC representatives said they couldn’t comment.

Lawyer Elizabeth Farries, of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, has been following this morning’s meeting and has said she’s disappointed with the answers given by the DPC members in response to certain questions.

Elizabeth tweetz:

Previously: ‘A Matter Of Urgent Importance’

Paschal Donohoe, then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, launches the Public Services Card (PSC) in 2016

This morning.

It’s being reported that the Department of Employment and Social Protection is refusing to release information with regard to an investigation by the Data Protection Commission into the legality of the public services card.

The request for information was made by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

In addition, the DPC has confirmed to The Irish Times that the DPC doesn’t intend to publish its report in full.

Instead it will publish a summary of its findings.

Elaine Edwards, in The Irish Times, reports:

A request from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties to the department asking it to release an interim investigation report by the commission into the card and connected projects has been rejected, on grounds that releasing it could reveal the department’s plans or have a significant adverse affect on its functions.

The ICCL call comes as the final stage of Government legislation which will allow wider sharing of personal data with organisations and agencies is set to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday.

ICCL director Liam Herrick called for “full transparency on the legal basis for the public services card because it violates the privacy and data protection rights of people living in Ireland.

“We have been campaigning against its introduction because it’s unnecessary, costly, and of questionable efficacy – and it targets in particular economically vulnerable people, such as those dependant on social welfare. Further, it is deeply troubling that the Government has continued to roll the card out for essential services while a question hangs over its legality,” he said.

Ms Edwards also reported that the DPC sent the department “a draft confidential report” in recent months for comment and that this report contains “13 provisional findings on issues spanning legal basis to transparency matters”.

Further to this…

Solicitor Simon McGarr has tweeted his thoughts on the matter…


Nurse Polly has also tweeted her experience of having to get a card.


Department refuses to release details of public services card inquiry (The Irish Times)

Rights group challenge over public services card (The Times Ireland)

Previously: Thank You, Nurse Polly