Minister to look into data concerns of new Irish citizens

Migrant Rights Centre ‘astounded’ that 25,000 names and addresses are accessible

Frances Fitzgerald: ‘I need to examine precisely where that decision  has come from.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Frances Fitzgerald: ‘I need to examine precisely where that decision has come from.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said she understands the concerns of people about the indefinite posting online of the names and full addresses of all those who are given Irish citizenship.

The Irish Times reported last week that the names and full addresses of thousands of people who receive Irish citizenship remain online indefinitely after publication by the Government’s official gazette, Iris Oifigiúil, raising concerns about safety and fraud.

Some addresses have been online for up to 10 years and are readily accessible. One new Irish citizen expressed horror at discovering her full address online, along with the names and addresses of up to 25,000 other naturalised citizens.

Aoife Murphy, spokeswoman for the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, also said her organisation was “astounded” that the Government had made this information easily accessible.

“[It] is a clear breach of privacy, and the Government can provide no assurances that the data will not be used maliciously. It’s completely unjustifiable,” she said.

Ms Murphy added that the body had “grave concern in particular for the safety of people who have sought protection in the State, including refugees, victims of trafficking and victims of domestic violence.

“The people on this list are citizens like any other, and should not be so publicly marked as different by their Government.”

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Fitzgerald said she would examine the implications of the information being published.

“I need to examine precisely where that decision [to publish names and addresses] has come from, and the implications of it. I will be examining it because I think people might worry about the intrusion it involves and I could certainly understand their concerns,” she said.

Mandated

Last week the Department of Justice said the publication in such a format was mandated by law under a 1956 Act and a 2011 statutory instrument (SI).

It said the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, which governed the granting of a certificate of naturalisation, required that a notice be published in Iris Oifigiúil.

“The information to be included in the notice is name, address, date of certificate and whether the person was of full age or a minor . . . The manner in which Iris Oifigiúil is circulated is not a matter for this department. The grant of a certificate of naturalisation is seen as a public act, where it is considered that disclosure is in the public interest,” it said.

“We are, after all, granting something very valuable at the Minister’s discretion and the exercise of that discretion should be transparent.”

The Data Protection Commissioner’s office said last week that the processing of personal information in this manner was exempt from the provisions of the Data Protection Acts as it was required by statute.