Tuesday 24 October 2017

Demands that Bill Hawkes clarify 'criticism'

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TRANSPARENCY International Ireland has written to the Data Protection Commissioner demanding that he clarify his suggestion that two garda whistleblowers leaked sensitive information to the public.

The whistleblower advocacy group said Commissioner Billy Hawkes made comments which could be "interpreted as criticism" of garda sergeant Maurice McCabe and retired officer John Wilson.

TI Ireland chief executive John Devitt this weekend said Mr Hawkes should "issue a statement making it clear that at no time did either whistleblower share personal data with members of the public".

Speaking after the launch of his review of the Garda Pulse system, Mr Hawkes said the whistleblowers had a "moral duty" to report malpractice in the force.

But he suggested that Mr Wilson and Sgt McCabe were restricted from accessing garda records by Commissioner Callinan to prevent "wholesale access to garda information" and "wholesale disclosure of it outside the force".

Both men have always insisted they followed strict protocols and only made confidential information available to members of the Oireachtas, which is their right under the Garda Siochana Act.

In a letter seen by the Sunday Independent, Mr Devitt asked the commissioner to confirm that neither men breached data protection rules when they accessed Pulse data to report malpractice.

Mr Devitt also asked the commissioner if he had previously criticised named individuals following an audit by his office and what was his "justification" for his rebuke of the garda whistleblowers.

"TI Ireland understands that the Data Protection Commissioner has no role or remit to criticise individual public servants," Mr Devitt said in a statement.

Mr Hawkes's show of support for the Garda chief came as calls grew in political circles for Mr Callinan to apologise to the whistleblowers for his controversial "disgusting" remark.

Sunday Independent

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