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Eight people could be brought to court over a refusal to fill in their census form

They could be fined up to €44,000.

Image: Sam Boal

THE CENTRAL STATISTICS Office will issue court summonses up to eight people over a failure to fill out their census forms.

The Irish Examiner, which first reported the story, says that between six and eight summonses are being considered, with some householders refusing to fill the form out over fears their data would be shared with Irish Water.

Deirdre Cullen, senior statistician at CSO told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the summonses are carried out in a small number of cases to remind the public of their obligation to fill out the form.

“The field staff get specific instructions to remind householders that they have a statutory obligation to fill out census.

The people who are punished are people who outright refused to cooperate with the census.

Cullen said those people have a number of fears, some citing the American Patriot Act.

“There are people who have fears over their data, but it only ever leaves the CSO in the form of a statistical table.”

She said that while Irish Water may have been a concern for some, she could not say if any of the summonses would be sent to people who gave the utility as a reason for not filling out their form.

We gather different pieces of evidence during the field operation, send the form by registered post, then we begin a dialogue with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office.

“It’s to remind people that they have to do the census and it only works if people do it.

“People will talk about the confidentiality of their data, some have fears that would share it with American organisations, but the data never leaves the CSO. Irish Water was an issue in some cases, but I couldn’t say it was a reason in those that will be written to.”

After the 2011 census, five summonses were sent out, with four leading to successful prosecutions. While the maximum fine by law is €44,000, the maximum awarded after the 2011 version was €1,500.

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