Coercive control and stalking laws may not cover use of electronic tagging devices, Seanad told

Use of items like Apple AirTags in British abuse cases rose by 317% in past five years with little to suggest statistics would be different in Ireland, Senator says

Concerns have been raised that domestic violence abusers and stalkers are using electronic tagging devices to monitor victims’ movements and such use may not be covered by the recently-implemented coercive control legislation.

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said that, in Britain, the use of trackers such as Apple AirTags in coercive control and stalking cases has increased by 317 per cent in the last five years. “There is little to suggest the statistics would be very different in Ireland,” she said.

“We passed stalking legislation recently, which was very welcome. However, the concern is whether Apple AirTags or other similar devices are being captured sufficiently by the legislation.”

Raising the issue in the Seanad, Ms Boylan said it had been brought to her attention by Irish actor and producer Áine O’Neill who is pursuing a class action against Apple in the US. Ms O’Neill was notified in November 2022 late one night while in Las Vegas that she was visible to an Apple AirTag, when “her phone pinged”.


The “AirTag was able to see where she worked, where she parked her car and everywhere she had been that evening”.

She discovered that the tag was in her car and placed there deliberately in an inaccessible place. Ms O’Neill went to two garages but “neither mechanic could remove the AirTag without carrying out significant dismantling of the car”. Apple told her they “could not disable the AirTag unless she physically had the tag herself”.

Ms Boylan asked if the same thing could happen in Ireland, given the significant rise in use of AirTags in Britain in coercive control and stalking cases. She said that anyone with an Android phone “will not get a notification that they are in the area of an AirTag” but will have to download an app to receive notifications that they are being detected.

“If what happened to Áine happens here, if someone deliberately hides an AirTag inside a person’s car or belongings, the person will not be able to disable it unless they physically have the tag.”

She asked if the Government is doing enough to regulate the use of these devices and if it was going to raise awareness.

“I want a reassurance that it is on the agenda at the Department of Justice and that we have legislation in place that is fit for purpose,” she said.

Minister of State Sean Fleming said the “overarching principles of the legislation may apply to the use of electronic tagging devices like AirTags in the context of stalking”.

He said the Government had strengthened the legal framework for coercive control and widened its scope to include any conduct that seriously interferes with a person’s peace or privacy and causes alarm, distress or harm to them.

Replying on behalf of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, Mr Fleming said the Minister would raise the issue with Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan, about “engaging with technology companies on ensuring safeguards are built into such devices”.

He added that “they will also examine if more can be or needs to be done in this space, including looking at whether it is a technological fix, a co-operative approach, or legislative change that is needed to make sure companies engage in this issue and can react to ensure their technology is not abused in any way”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times