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Data Retention in Ireland – what’s going on?

Ireland is drafting new laws that will make it mandatory for ISPs and telephone companies to retain information about Internet and telephone usage, and make it available to law enforcement. This legislation has been in progress for some months, but there has been no consultation.

Act now to make sure this legislation takes full account of the privacy rights of Internet users.

A veil of secrecy surrounds the whole affair. The government is entering into consultations about this legislation, but only in a limited way and on its own terms.

An ‘information forum’ has been arranged for this Monday to discuss plans for this event. However, no information about this has been put in the public domain. No journalists have been invited. Limits on attendance have been imposed even on the few parties that have been invited. No papers have been made available in advance. There is no information on the Department of Justice website. No effort was made to advertise this event beyond a tiny select group. (A copy of the letter that was sent out to a tiny number of parties a few weeks ago is printed below. )

It is unbelievable that a democratic government should go about its business in such an underhand way. It is up to people like you to make sure that proper consultations happen. To do this, you should do the following. It is critical that you do this NOW. There is no time to lose.

  • Fax or email the Minister for Justice.

  • In your letter, you should specifically mention the ‘Information Forum’ which is organised for Monday next. Say that you were surprised to learn about these consultations, and say that you are worried about the secrecy that surrounds the whole affair. Say that you want him to postpone next week’s meeting, until a properly publicised and documented meeting can be organised. Your letter should have a polite but firm tone.

  • Mark your Fax ‘Private and Confidential – Urgent’ . Be sure to give your full name, address and telephone number.

  • Say that you will be contacting your local TD regarding the matter.

  • The Minister’s departmental email address is The fax number is +353 – 1 – 6615461. If possible, you should send your letter by fax and by email.

  • If you are a constituent of his (have an address in Dublin South-East, including most of the city centre south of the river) you should also contact his office. The email address is The fax number is +353-1-498 8087.

This is urgent and important. It is critical that you act now. Even if you don’t normally get involved in politics, or even if you don’t usually vote, you have a voice. It is important that you use it.

Use it now! You should contact the minister befor this weekend, February 22nd.

Find out more about this important issue at
Below is the letter that was sent to a very small group of people – the rest of us are being kept out of it.

Please send me a copy of any email you send to the minister’s office, and let me know if you send a fax. Alternatively, add a comment to this blog.

— begin letter from Department of Justice —

The Government?s legislative programme contains a commitment to the
introduction of legislation to set a time limit for which telecommunications
companies should retain traffic data for the purposes of the investigation
of serious crime or the security of the State.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law reform, Mr. Michael McDowell TD,
before bringing forward his proposals for legislation in this regard,
indicated that he would obtain the views of interested parties in relation
to the proposed legislation. As a first step towards facilitating a process
of consultation the Minister is hosting an information forum on Monday 24
February, 2003 in the Alexander Hotel, Dublin commencing at 3pm.

A draft agenda is enclosed for your information. You are invited to attend
the forum or to nominate representatives to do so. For logistical reasons,
it has proven necessary to limit representation from each of the invited
groups to two representatives.

I would be grateful if you could reply to the undersigned by Friday, 14
February, 2003 at the latest to let us know if you are interested in
attending and, if so, the names of the representatives.

Your Sincerely

Signed Barry O?Hara
Head of Division
Information Forum on Data Retention

Monday 24 February 2003

Alexander Hotel

Draft Programme

14.30 ? 15.00 Registration
15.00 ? 15.20 Opening Address by Minister for Justice, Equality and Law
Reform outlining the issues to be considered.
15.30 ? 15.40 The Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources
on Directive 97/66/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council
concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in
the telecommunications sector and amending Directives, and technical aspects
of data retention.
15.40 ? 16.00 An Garda Siochana on the contribution of data retention in the
fight against crime.
16.15 ? 17.45 Contributions from participants
17.45 ? 18.00 Conclusion

— end of letter from Department of Justice —

Write a Comment


  1. The data retention policy is the result of EU directive 97/66 (as mentioned above). There’s no secret conspiracy.

    There’s no privacy issue with this, if you don’t want anyone to read your email, just encrypt it.You cannot be compelled to hand over you keys (ala UK) and will only be compelled to decrypt an email if a court order mandates it.

    Having the ISP legally bound to retain your email is actually quite handy. If you ever have to dispurte with someone on the authenticity of an email you can get a court order to compel the ISP to release the mail. This helps everyone except ISPs who have to allocate storage for, and manage the archive.

  2. ‘Phil’ has his facts wrong. This is _not_ about the implementation of any EU Directive. Where in Directive 97/66 ( it say that governments have to bring in a retention law?

    Cryptography won’t protect you against the recording of information about who you are in contact with.

    The issue is a lot wider and more complex than you think, Phil. Wider consultation is necessary on this issue. Contact the minister now and let him know.

  3. The implications of this proposed legislation are even wider than just tracking who you’ve been corresponding with on e-mail. If you look at what they’re proposing to store it includes the location of the telecommunications device. With the increasing ability to pinpoint the location of a mobile handset this effectively becomes a system which records where you are at any point in time. In my opinion that’s the most frightening element of what they’re proposing to do.