Tuesday 28 January 2020

Creighton broke data protection laws with calls seeking votes

Lucinda Creighton with a lapel badge for Renua, the party she founded and later quit. Photo: Collins
Lucinda Creighton with a lapel badge for Renua, the party she founded and later quit. Photo: Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Former Renua leader Lucinda Creighton breached data protection law when her campaigners rang a woman seeking her vote ahead of the General Election.

The ex-minister's election team used the phone number of a constituent who had been in contact with her office years previously but had not consented to use of her number for election or marketing calls.

Dublin woman Christine Murray complained that she was phoned three times, including on the day of the election, by people soliciting her vote on behalf of Ms Creighton.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has ruled that the ex-politician broke the law by allowing Ms Murray's number to be used in such a way.

Prior to the election, Ms Dixon had publicly warned candidates who canvass using the phone, email or text that such practices could be seen as "direct marketing".

"In any democracy, candidates must be empowered to engage with the voters whom they wish to represent," she said.

"However, there are obvious potential data protection implications to canvassing, particularly when it takes the form of contact by text, phone call, email or fax which constitutes direct marketing."

After it emerged that a complaint had been made about her office, Ms Creighton said it was a "common occurrence" that politicians use numbers and email addresses in the run-up to elections.

"It happens all the time. Maybe that's a grey area," she said.

It is not yet clear what further action, if any, will be taken on the issue.

Meanwhile, Ms Creighton has said she sees a future for her former party, even though it failed to secure any seats in February's election.

The Mayo woman represented the Dublin South East constituency for nine years before losing her seat in the election.

Afterwards she stood down as leader of Renua and set up a consultancy firm called Vulcan Consulting. She advises on a range of economic and political issues, with particular focus on the pharmaceutical, technology, aviation, telecommunications and financial services sectors.

Asked about her much publicised election battle with former Fine Gael colleague Kate O'Connell, Ms Creighton said there had been a "huge effort" to drag her into a personalised campaign.

However, speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, she said: "I don't look back with bitterness. I'm very pleased to say that losing my seat didn't affect me." While she did not rule out a return to politics at some stage in the future, she said "at this point in time I'm not interested".

It comes after the Irish Independent revealed that Reuna is to advertise in the coming days for Ms Creighton's replacement as leader.

The party is to hold an AGM on September 3 at which time the new leader is expected to be revealed.

It is understood the advertisements will state the position is "full time" and comes with a salary of €65,000.

Offaly councillor John Leahy is favourite for the position.

Read more: Renua to offer €65k salary in search to replace Creighton

Irish Independent

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