Greens request sight of plan to expand facial recognition technology use

Party supports gardaí having access to best technology to fight crime but insists on ‘proper safeguards’

The Green Party has said it wants to see the detail of a proposed expansion of the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) being mooted in the wake of unrest in Dublin city centre last week.

The use of the technology was a political flashpoint during the summer, when the Greens objected to the inclusion of FRT in legislation enabling the use of body-worn cameras by the gardaí.

That row was eventually defused when Minister for Justice Helen McEntee agreed to separate legislation dedicated to FRT.

On Sunday, Ms McEntee confirmed that she intended to expand legislation to include investigations into violent disorder and rioting. The law is currently being drafted to allow for the wider use of FRT by the Garda, with plans to publish legislation in the coming weeks and enact it as soon as possible. “We need facial recognition technology to be able to respond to those types of incidents. Gardaí should not have to spend thousands of hours trawling through footage to identify these thugs,” she said.


Gardaí are examining over 6,000 hours of CCTV footage related to the riots.

A spokesman for the Green Party said it supported giving gardaí access to cutting-edge technology in order to fight crime “as long as the proper safeguards are in place”.

“The party gave its backing to the original Bill to give gardaí access to bodycams and also agreed to a separate, standalone Bill that would allow for the retrospective use of facial recognition technology in serious cases, provided this was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.

“We await the full details of the extra categories of offences that Minister McEntee proposes to allow FRT be used to help investigate.”

Patrick Costello, the Dublin South Central Green Party TD who has outlined concerns over FRT, said the use of the technology on rioting and violent disorder investigation was “not necessarily a bad thing” but urged that the legislation not be rushed and that proper scrutiny and safeguards be put in place.

“I’ve no issue with gardaí having new technology but we have to have scrutiny,” he said. It is understood that the intention is to include the expanded measures during pre-legislative scrutiny.

There was a heavy garda presence in the city centre over the weekend, including large numbers of public order unit personnel. Between Thursday and Saturday, gardaí arrested 48 people, MsMcEntee said on Saturday evening.

However, only 34 of these directly related to the rioting, with the remainder being for regular public order offences on Friday and Saturday, sources said.

Despite attempts by far-right campaigners to organise protests at various points over the weekend, there were no major incidents or demonstrations.

Individual gardaí have criticised delays in equipping gardaí with riot gear (which is stored in a single warehouse in Santry instead of individual stations), a lack of training and confusion over use of force rules.

Some gardaí complained over the weekend members were afraid to use their batons to protect themselves or colleagues for fear of disciplinary action.

A Dublin City Council Joint Policing Committee is due to discuss the response on Monday, following a last-minute change to its agenda in light of the violence.

Meanwhile, Government sources said there was renewed concern about the State’s capacity to provide accommodation for international protection applicants arriving here. Earlier this year, single male applicants were not given a bed, in some instances they slept rough instead.

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council, said that given the “shocking events” of last Thursday, he believed that international protection applicants would be targeted if they had to sleep rough.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times