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'Friend of Facebook' Enda Kenny offered to lobby on company's behalf while Taoiseach, says Observer article

The claims were contained in a Facebook memo published by The Observer.

Enda Kenny outside Government Buildings in Dublin.
Enda Kenny outside Government Buildings in Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Mar 3rd 2019, 6:43 PM

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. 

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.

Fianna Fáils technology spokesperson James Lawless TD described Kenny’s actions as described by the document as “brazen”.

“The willingness of former Fine Gael, Taoiseach Enda Kenny to bat for Facebook and his brazenness to use Ireland’s position to protect his allies in big tech is indicative of the appalling attitude still held among his party colleagues,” Lawless said.

We certainly need an explanation regarding this matter but we also need a tangible gesture of intent from government that they are serious about appropriately dealing with the giants operating within social media. Our bill can do that and can be prioritised on the legislative agenda if they truly recognise its importance.

Independent MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan described the claims in the article as “extraordinary”.

Kenny did not comment on The Observer’s article and TheJournal.ie has sought a response from the Department of Communications following Kelleher’s call for clarification from the government. 

 

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Rónán Duffy

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