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Varadkar plays down claims Enda Kenny influenced EU data protection laws



Former taoiseach Enda Kenny with Leo Varadkar in 2016. Photo: Tom Burke

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny with Leo Varadkar in 2016. Photo: Tom Burke

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny with Leo Varadkar in 2016. Photo: Tom Burke

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has sought to play down claims that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered to help Facebook influence EU data protection laws.

A Facebook document claims that Mr Kenny offered to help the social media giant influence other EU member states on EU data legislation.

It was reported that the former Taoiseach offered to use Ireland's position in Europe to lobby on the company's behalf.

The memo, which described Mr Kenny as a "Facebook friend", was reportedly part of court documents in a California court case involving Facebook.

Mr Varadkar said the Irish government doesn't have a closer relationship with Facebook than any other large firm in Ireland.

"I think you can judge us in our actions in that regard when the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) was introduced and in full," he said.

"We totally beefed up the role of the Data Protection Commissioner when Enda Kenny took over as Taoiseach. It was a small, under-resourced office headquartered over a Spar and he really took that on and expanded it.

"They have confirmed that they never received any lobbying on behalf of Facebook or any other company by Enda Kenny as Taoiseach."

Claims that Mr Kenny, who was Taoiseach from 2011 to 2017, sought to influence the regulation of data protection rules have also been rejected by Ireland's Communication Minister.

Richard Bruton said the former Taoiseach did not dilute data protection rules.

He added that Mr Kenny "strengthened" the office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

"We have taken our responsibilities very seriously and ... I think we have been pioneers in this field," he said.

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"I think whatever perceptions might be sought to be created, the reality is very different.

"There has been no carve up or no dilution of any of its provisions here. It was Enda Kenny himself who introduced the strengthening of the powers of the Data Protection Commissioner.

"It's a matter for Enda if he wants to comment, but I think the evidence is very clear that there has been no diminution of the vigilance of data protection in Ireland."

A spokeswoman for Facebook said: "Like the other documents that were cherrypicked and released in violation of a court order last year, these by design tell one side of a story and omit important context.

"As we've said, these selective leaks came from a lawsuit where Six4Three, the creators of an app known as Pikinis, hoped to force Facebook to share information on friends of the app's users.

"These documents have been sealed by a Californian court so we're not able to discuss them in detail."

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