Dispute between Justice Minister and county council blocking roll-out of rural CCTV
A dispute between Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan's department and the county council in his Co Laois constituency is blocking the roll-out of rural community CCTV schemes.
Community alert groups across the county have been unable to draw down Department of Justice grants - which pay up to 60pc of the cost of buying and installing the camera systems - because Laois County Council is refusing to take on the role of data controller on the grounds it doesn't have the budget or resources to do so.
The stand-off has caused serious tensions between the council management and local TD Mr Flanagan because the impasse is blocking the installation of CCTV schemes in four rural areas which over recent years have been hit by an upsurge in crime and a reduction in Garda resources.
Under the Garda Síochána Acts of 2005 and 2006 such community CCTV schemes must first be approved by the local Joint Policing Committee and authorised by the Garda Commissioner. They must also have the local authority's support in the granting of planning permission for the individual cameras.
But it is the stipulation the local authority must also act as data controller that has created an embarrassing stumbling block for the schemes in the minister's own back yard.
The council's refusal to take on the role means the community groups do not qualify for grant aid from Mr Flanagan's department, which provides up to 60pc of the cost of each scheme to a maximum of €40,000. The remainder is raised by the local community.
At Laois County Council meetings, chief executive John Mulholland has expressed his concerns about the potential costs to the council if the authority took on the data controller role and said he preferred the Garda overseeing the operation or an independent company so the authority would not incur the cost or human resource burden.
A recent statement by the Data Protection Commissioner said new GDPR legislation does not stand in the way of community CCTV as long as councils accepted responsibility as data controllers.
The issue is due to be raised at a special meeting of Community Alert groups in Newtown Mill in Woodenbridge tomorrow night.
"We are completely fed up with this situation of buck passing between the different groups," said Michael G Phelan, one of the organisers of the meeting. "We have invited all the stakeholders."
A spokesperson for Mr Flanagan said he had "been working very hard to resolve this situation".
In a statement to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Flanagan said: "The law governing these schemes has been the same since 2006 and it remains the law today. And what that law means is that the same rules apply whether a community CCTV scheme is privately funded or seeking funding from my department."