Facial recognition technology for garda use should not be delayed, says Simon Harris

Green Party believes issue of technology’s use is ‘far too complex to be dealt with by way of an amendment to an existing bill’

Minister for Justice Simon Harris has said he does not want to see “any delay” to plans to introduce contentious facial recognition technology by the gardaí.

The Green Party has said it has concerns about the plan being pursued by Mr Harris, which would see a piece of legislation currently working its way through the Oireachtas amended to enable the use of the technology.

Speaking on Monday morning, Mr Harris said the Green Party have legitimate concerns and that he hopes a “landing zone” can be found.

He also said he will sit down very shortly with the party leaders to discuss the proposals.


“I actually don’t think the difference is as substantial as sometimes presented. I don’t obsess about what modality or what method gets us there. What I do obsess about is the fact we have to give the gardaí the tools they need to tackle serious crime. We know that criminals, more and more, are using technology that causes harm and we have to support the gardaí.

“I think of my visit to Garda headquarters where I, along with the Commissioner, met with gardaí working on the issue of online child abuse. Today the gardaí are having to manually trawl through thousands of images of the most horrific crimes possible, where time is of the essence. We know there is a technology that could firstly prevent a guard from the human trauma of having to sit through that, and secondly perhaps find the perpetrator much more quickly.

“There are other examples if an older person goes missing from a nursing home. It is absolutely right and proper to say that if you bring in new technology, there is a need for safeguards, that is entirely appropriate. I can absolutely say that the approach we will take in Ireland will be cautious in comparison to other jurisdictions.”

Last week, a spokesman for the Greens in Government said that party believes the issue of facial recognition technology is “far too complex to be dealt with by way of an amendment to an existing bill. This is particularly true given that significant concerns have been raised about its use in other countries”.

Mr Harris said he is happy to have a discussion about how the measures are brought in, but added: “I don’t want to see a delay here.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times