All parties will have to explain use of electoral register to Oireachtas

Move follows controversy over Sinn Féin’s use of Facebook and canvassing database

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin said: ‘There are claims that we are data mining from Facebook – it is not true.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin spokesman on housing Eoin Ó Broin said: ‘There are claims that we are data mining from Facebook – it is not true.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

All political parties are to be asked to come before an Oireachtas committee to explain their use of the electoral register amid recent concerns about the Sinn Féin Abú canvassing database.

Fine Gael Senator John Cummins wrote to the chair of the Oireachtas committee on housing Steven Matthews to request that representatives from Sinn Féin appear and answer questions about the database which records a person’s level of support for the party and when they last voted.

Mr Cummins also requested that representatives from the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) organisation appear to give their view.

The committee met on Tuesday morning in private where Mr Cummins’s request was discussed. Sources said a “compromise” was reached whereby every political party will be asked to send a representative to a future meeting of the committee to explain how they use the electoral register, what type of databases they operate, what type of information is stored on it and to address other questions.

Sinn Féin is talking with the Data Protection Commissioner who has asked a series of questions about the Abú database and about how the party uses information it gleans from potential voters on Facebook.

Housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin told reporters on Monday that the database, which party leader Mary Lou McDonald has been urged to answer questions about in the Dáil, is used “to engage with the electorate, target your vote and get them out on election day”.

“There are claims that we are data mining from Facebook – it is not true,” he said. “Any information I get from anybody on Facebook, they give it to me consensually. I ask them for it and they provide it, and I use that data for the purposes it’s provided, as the law requires.”

Mr Ó Broin said Sinn Féin did not add information collected locally to the database. The party will “take on board” any suggestions from the Data Protection Commissioner about its management of the database, he said.