Monday 24 July 2017

TJ McIntyre: Circling of the wagons proves how secretive surveillance system is lacking real oversight

'It is clear that both the Irish law on phone tapping and the way it is implemented fail to meet
fundamental international standards.' Stock photo: PA
'It is clear that both the Irish law on phone tapping and the way it is implemented fail to meet fundamental international standards.' Stock photo: PA

TJ McIntyre

The reaction of the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána to the latest phone-tapping scandal has been a predictable circling of the wagons. As usual, those bodies have refused to address the details of the allegations. We have seen generic statements, asserting that there is a legal basis for phone tapping and that it is subject to judicial oversight.

The problem with that response is simple: it is clear that both the Irish law on phone tapping and the way it is implemented fail to meet fundamental international standards.

Take the most basic starting point: who decides whether a phone tap should take place? International human rights law requires that interception of communications be authorised by a judge or an equivalent independent body. In Ireland, however, this power is given to the Justice Minister - leaving it open to allegations of political motivation.

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