Data commissioner welcomes ‘critical’ €4m budget rise

Concern office still underfunded ahead of EU law change while researchers get extra €7m

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon says her office aims to spend its additional €4 million allocated in Budget 2018 to recruit up to 40 new employees.

She said the funding was critical given the introduction of new EU data privacy legislation, which comes into force next year.

The total funding allocation for the Data Protection Commissioner is almost €11.7 million, a rise of 55 per cent on this year’s allocation and a six-fold rise on the €1.9 million provided for her office in 2014.

"The Government's continuing commitment to meeting the funding requirements of the Irish data protection authority is a clear recognition that 2018 will mark a transformative step-change in data protection regulation in the European Union, strengthening the data privacy rights of individuals and placing increased compliance and accountability obligations on organisations processing personal data," said Ms Dixon.


There has previously been criticism of the lack of funding provided for the office, given the significant increase in its workload in recent years. That workload is expected to grow considerably with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25th, 2018.

The GDPR aims primarily to give control back to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is responsible for upholding the privacy rights of individuals in relation to the processing of their personal data. It expects headcount to rise to 90 people by the end of 2017 after hiring a numbe

r of specialist hires in recent months.

The commissioner will be the lead supervisory authority for GDPR of the many multinational companies established here, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple.

Ms Dixon said the new regulation would place “considerable additional functions and responsibilities” on the commission.

“The 2018 budget increase is therefore hugely positive and critical to preparations for our enhanced and increasingly globally prominent regulatory role,” said Ms Dixon.

TJ McIntyre, a lecturer in the UCD Sutherland School of Law, and chairman of Digital Rights Ireland, expressed concern that Ms Dixon's office remains underfunded.

“It’s a welcome increase. It puts Ireland in a good position when funding is measured per capita against national population. But it is still not a huge amount when measured against the number of users of technology firms headquartered in Ireland. Ireland has become an international regulator and this funding is badly needed to reflect that,” he said.

The State’s research community has welcomed the promise of an additional €7 million in funding for researchers announced in Budget 2018.

The Irish Research Council, which operates a number of funding initiatives, described the additional allocation as "an important development".

The Government on Tuesday announced an overall capital allocation of €21 million over the period 2018-2021.

"This investment is another significant step by Government in redressing the paucity of opportunities for Ireland's most talented individual researchers to conduct world-class basic research," said Peter Brown, interim director of the council.

“Support for individual researchers across all career stages and disciplines is an essential component of a modern research system and will greatly support Ireland’s objective to become an innovation leader,” he added.

Prof Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, also welcomed the extra money, along with increased capital funding to join the European Southern Observatory and to establish the SFI Future Milk Research Centre, led by Teagasc.

Science Foundation Ireland director general Mark Ferguson said the additional funding was evidence of the Government's committment to scientific research.

Entrepreneurs expressed disappointment with Budget 2018 however, with many critical of the lack of new measures to help those looking to grow and establish businesses in Ireland.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist