Saturday 19 October 2019

Pressure on Kenny over Facebook claims

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny. Picture: PA
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny. Picture: PA
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended his predecessor Enda Kenny, who is coming under pressure to answer claims that he offered to help Facebook to influence EU member states on privacy laws.

There have been calls for Mr Kenny to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on the matter after he was allegedly listed among "friends of Facebook" in one of the tech giant's internal memos.

'The Observer' reported a claim that Mr Kenny offered to use the "significant influence" of Ireland's EU presidency in 2013 as a way to influence other member states.

Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless has called for Mr Kenny to answer questions on the issue.

He said that they are "serious allegations" and that Mr Kenny should say what was discussed with Facebook and if he acted on requests to lobby EU countries on its behalf. He said this could be done at the Oireachtas Communications Committee.

People Before Profit's Dublin candidate for the European elections Gillian Brien also said Mr Kenny should be brought before an Oireachtas committee to explain his interactions with Facebook.

Mr Varadkar said it would be up to Mr Kenny whether or not he makes a statement on the issue, and added: "I don't think he has any case to answer for."

Mr Varadkar said that when Mr Kenny became Taoiseach the Data Protection Commissioner was "a small under- resourced office headquartered over a Spar in Portarlington and he really took that on".

He said that the office was "beefed up" during Mr Kenny's time in office.

Mr Kenny did not respond to requests for comment on the controversy or whether he would agree to answer questions on it at an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Varadkar, meanwhile, insisted that the Government has a good relationship with all of the large multinational companies in Ireland and it's no closer to Facebook than any of the other firms.

He said that as Taoiseach, companies, trade unions and business and environment groups lobby him all the time, seeking public policy changes.

He said it's the job of politicians to listen to people but then make decisions that are believed to be in the public interest.

Irish Independent

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