Tuesday 23 July 2019

GDPR regulations 'eroding role of councillors to figureheads'

Cllr John O’Rourke
Cllr John O’Rourke

Pádraig Byrne

While General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR is a phrase that everyone in the country has become familiar with over the course of last year, local independent councillor John O'Rourke has said that the new regulations are having a disastrous impact on the work carried out by local representatives and are effectively seeing the role of a local councillor eroded to just becoming a 'figurehead'.

Cllr O'Rourke says that, now in order to make representations on behalf of a constituent, local representatives have to jump through a series of hoops which includes getting the constituents to fill out and sign forms that gives permission for the councillor to access their private information. While this slows the process slightly, Cllr O'Rourke says that the real problem follows further down the line when he tries to follow up on cases in which he has already acted and, once again, needs further permission.

'We used to get a list of successful housing applications and then we'd know,' he said. 'Now the case is that I might be making enquiries in relation to a case and it could already have been sorted months ago. People on the street seem to know when someone has been housed before us councillors, who may have been making representations in the case for some time previously. The role of a local councillor is practically being eroded to just a figurehead.'

While Cllr O'Rourke acknowledges the necessity to be careful with people's sensitive personal data, he feels that the system was working sufficiently before.

'I've never been in breach of data protection regulations before or passed on people's information without their permission,' he said. 'Once my dealing in their case is finished, if they wanted their documents and data back, then I'd give it back, or if not I'd go down to County Hall and shred it.'

Cllr O'Rourke was also critical of Wexford County Council, who he said was the only council in the country to implement the new data protection policy ahead of this year's local elections. This, he said, had a major impact on councillors following up on cases before this term comes to an end.

Enniscorthy Guardian