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Data Protection Commission says it was 'categorically' never lobbied by Enda Kenny

An Observer article yesterday claimed Kenny offered to lobby on Facebook’s behalf.

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE OFFICE OF the Data Protection Commission has said it had “categorically” never been lobbied by former taoiseach Enda Kenny or his office. 

The statement comes after the government has been urged to make a statement after The Observer published claims that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny offered to use Ireland’s position to lobby on behalf of Facebook on EU data legislation. 

“I can categorically confirm that our office has never been lobbied by Enda Kenny or his office,” ODPC head of communications Graham Doyle said. 

In a statement to reporters, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that it was up to enda Kenny whether he commented on the story, but added that he doesn’t feel Kenny has to.

Varadkar says he gets lobbied all the time from the large multinationals, and that Ireland has a “good relationship” with all big tech companies, but Facebook is no different from the rest.

The article published details from a Facebook memo which described Kenny as a “friend of Facebook” and said that the company had a “great relationship” with the former Taoiseach.

The memo claimed that Kenny stated that Ireland’s presidency of the EU provided “the opportunity to influence the European Data Directive decisions” and that Ireland could also influence other member states, “even though technically Ireland is supposed to remain neutral in this role”.

The memo was reportedly contained in court documents as part of a California court case involving Facebook. 

Ireland held the presidency of the EU between January-June 2013 during Kenny’s first term as Taoiseach. 

Facebook’s international headquarters are located in Dublin and the article notes the critical role played by Ireland’s data protection commissioner on an EU-wide basis.

In response to the claims made in the article, Fianna Fáil’s enterprise spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD said questions needed to be answered.

“This will require a statement to clarify it (sic) the government and its diplomatic services were being used to lobby other EU member states on behalf of Facebook,” Kelleher tweeted.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said that “there’s some things that are absolutely clear”, as he addressed the reports. 

“Firstly, there is no watered down rules in Ireland on GDPR. Secondly, it was Enda Kenny himself who dramatically strengthened the powers and resources of the Data Protection Commissioner here in Ireland. Thirdly, both holders of that office have stated that they had no interference from government,” Bruton said.

“I think there’s very strong indication as to the position that Ireland has taken and it has always been that we need strong and fair regulation of these companies,” he said. 

“Of course these companies are important players and if they express a view about developing legislation they have to be listened to, just like any other view will be listened to in framing legislation.”

Kenny’s office has been contacted for a statement. 

With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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