Green TDs concerned about law giving Garda access to facial-recognition technology

Junior Coalition members accept need for body cameras but feel facial recognition flawed on age, gender and race

A number of Green Party TDs and Senators say the use of facial-recognition technology is the main focus of their opposition to legislation giving gardaí access to wearable video recording equipment.

The party’s justice spokesman, Patrick Costello, and Waterford TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh have said there should be greater scrutiny of the laws giving An Garda Síochána the power to wear body cameras than is being provided for by Minister for Justice Simon Harris.

The An Garda Síochána (Recording Devices) Bill 2022 was introduced in the Dáil last week by Mr Harris. He said the use of body-worn cameras would significantly strengthen the capacity of the force to tackle crime and protect national security.

He said he hoped to enact the Bill as soon as possible to enable Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to pilot the use of body-worn cameras later this year, before their widespread roll-out.


However, Mr Costello, a Dublin South Central TD, and Mr Ó Cathasaigh are among a significant number in the Green Party who have reservations about rushing through a Bill that they say will have significant implications for human rights, for individual privacy and for personal liberty.

They said the Bill should have gone through pre-legislative scrutiny before being brought to the Dáil.

The substance of their reservations revolves around the potential use of facial-recognition technology. They have fewer concerns about the use of body cameras. “Facial-recognition technology does not work,” said Mr Costello. “It has age, gender and racial bias problems.”

He said gardaí had not called for that specific technology, but rather for body cameras. “We are more agnostic on body cameras. I can see that value for police and police powers. It is getting the balance in a democracy right.”

Mr Costello asked why there was a rush to get the legislation through without proper pre-legislative scrutiny.

He pointed to the fact that the EU would complete its work on the artificial intelligence directive in 2024 and said the proposed Irish law was pre-empting a directive to which the State would be required to comply.

Mr Ó Cathasaigh said his problem was “less the body cameras, more the facial-recognition technology”.

“There’s a huge amount to be considered on it and, as I said in the Dáil, I don’t think a committee-stage amendment gives enough space for that,” he said. “The [facial-recognition] technology isn’t very good at the moment, which is one thing, but it’s a real and significant rebalancing of civil liberties as well.”

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times