'Democracy can't function without a strong and independent media' - Varadkar 'concerned' over alleged data breach at INM
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has expressed concern at the alleged data breach at Independent News and Media (INM), saying "democracy can't function without a strong and independent media".
His remarks come amid the controversy surrounding the country's largest media group over revelations that data, including the emails of journalists, executives and other staff may have been accessed by external companies in October 2014.
Mr Varadkar was speaking alongside Communications Minister Denis Naughten who said there needs to be a “clear distinction” between allegations made “in relation to board activity and also the work of the employees within the company who are trying to do their work on a day-to-day basis”.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) will next Monday ask the High Court to appoint inspectors to investigate the suspected data breach and other corporate governance issues at INM.
The Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, is also expected to launch an investigation into INM which is the publisher of Independent.ie.
At Project Ireland 2040 event in Galway, Mr Varadkar said: "I do have concerns. I'm concerned anytime somebody's personal emails or electronic information is accessed by anyone.
"For our democracy to function we need to have an independent press and we need to have a diversity of press ownership as well".
Mr Varadkar added: "I'm a great believer in that because democracy can't function without a strong and independent media.
"What's going to happen now is a government office, the ODCE is going to initiate an investigation. At least until that investigation is completed I can't really say any more.
"I think it is appropriate that there be an investigation by this government office, the ODCE."
Communications Minister Denis Naughten raised similar concerns to Mr Varakdar but said it's important that there's a differentiation between the allegations made about INM board activity and the work of employees who are "trying to do their work on a day-to-day basis".
“There's absolutely no doubt about it there are concerns in relation to what is out in the public domain now at the moment."
He referred to the probes by the ODCE and the Data Protection Commissioner, saying: "I think we need to let both of those investigations take place."
Mr Naughten added: "I think it is important that there's a differentiation here with the allegations that are made in relation to the board activity and also the work of the employees within the company who are trying to do their work on a day-to-day basis.
"I think there needs to be clear distinction made in relation to that."
Mr Naughten said: "Let's have the investigations. Let's see what comes out of that.”