Sherlock in fresh Sopa controversy


Minister of State for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock has become embroiled in fresh controversy over his new copyright laws after it emerged a member of a panel discussion on the legislation had been asked to step down.

Solicitor Simon McGarr, who took part in the Stop Sopa Ireland campaign, was among those who had been invited to take part in the Digital Rights Forum, a public discussion taking place tomorrow, to discuss issues surrounding digital rights in Ireland organised by IT expert Sean Nicholls.

However, Mr McGarr said he had been asked to step down from the panel last week after the minister threatened not to participate if he [McGarr] was on the panel.

Mr Sherlock confirmed today he had told the organiser of the event that he would not take part in a panel that included Mr McGarr, saying he was responsible for causing “reputational damage to this country”.

“I stated that I did not want to share a podium with someone who generated an online campaign that falsely compared the Statutory Instrument to the US Sopa legislation,” he said.

“I stated to Sean [Nicholls] that I had an issue with sharing a podium with Mr McGarr and I would not attend if he was on the podium. I wish to make it clear that I expressly stated that I had no issue with Mr McGarr attending the event and I would be happy for him to do so.”

Mr Nicholls said Mr McGarr was welcome to attend the event as a member of the audience who, he said, were also likely to ask Mr Sherlock hard questions.

Mr McGarr said it was not about whether he was on the panel, but more about whether a minister should say that they did not want to be a panel with someone they did not agree with.

“It’s surprising reason,” he said, following the publication of Mr Sherlock’s reasons for his reluctance to share the panel discussion with him.

He said the Sopa Ireland campaign was an example of “active citizenry” and should be encouraged.

More than 50,000 Irish people signed a petition against the legislation, which was signed into law by the Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton on February 29th.

Mr McGarr also backed the Digital Rights Forum.

“I think [organiser Sean] Nicholls is really trying to do something I think is very valuable,” he said.

The developer community, of which Mr Nicholls is a member, would have the opportunity to express their concerns and address them, Mr McGarr said.