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Sunday 28 May 2017

Fitzgerald's review of laws will not report until after the election

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerlad speaks to the media at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerlad speaks to the media at Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Shane Phelan and Kevin Doyle

Snooping powers were used by authorities almost 6,000 times in a single year to access private phone records.

For the first time, the extent of GSOC and other agencies' use of snooping laws has been revealed.

The Irish Independent has encountered a wall of silence from investigative bodies, none of whom would disclose the extent to which they access the phone and internet records of citizens.

An EU report covering the years 2008 to 2012, estimated that between 9,000 and 15,000 records were being accessed each year in Ireland under snooping legislation.

However, the most recent and definitive figures released by the Department of Justice for 2014 confirm some 5,513 requests for mobile and telephone data by An Garda Síochána - with further requests from GSOC, the Defence Forces and Revenue Commissioners.

It comes after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald announced a review of laws that allow these bodies to access phone records - but this will not be complete until after the general election. She said she was determined to get "a speedy report".

But she said it was not possible to immediately stop snooping on phone records as there are "complex" issues involved.

Former chief justice John Murray will also limit his probe purely to the impact of the laws on journalists, and not citizens.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the exercise of snooping powers on the general public must also be reviewed.

Irish Independent

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