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Mary Lou McDonald says voters can 'of course' ask Sinn Féin what information the party holds on them

McDonald was speaking about her party’s data collection practices amid questions from the Data Protection Commission.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said that her party would “of course” tell people what information the party holds on them. 

McDonald was speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show about her party’s data collection practices amid questions about the safety of the data it holds on Irish voters. 

Sinn Féin says it has responded to the Data Protection Commission (DPC) after the watchdog sought information about how it uses its database and information collected from social media.

Commissioner Helen Dixon wrote to the party seeking confirmation about its ‘Abú’ system and whether it is GDPR compliant.

The response comes following reports in the Sunday Independent that Sinn Féin activists are being told to use personal information posted online to establish the address of a potential voter.

Speaking on the issue for the first time, McDonald said her party has answered the DPC’s questions “very comprehensively”. 

“They’ve asked a number of questions, we’ve answered them very comprehensively, they may have more questions, and the process will run as it runs, I’m satisfied that we are absolutely compliant,” she said. 

The Dublin Central TD also claimed that “every political party” uses the electoral register to help parties establish if a voter is likely to vote for them. 

“Every political party, every political candidate uses the electoral register to know who’s registered to vote and then to come and canvass your vote and to establish, in their judgement, the likelihood or otherwise of you voting for them. That is called special category information and data, it’s specifically referenced In the law and is entirely legal,” she said. 

McDonald said that such records were held using pen and paper “back in the day” but that “the new element is that these things are stored electronically”. 

Asked whether voters could contact Sinn Féin to ask what information the party holds on them, McDonald said they could “of course” do that. 

“Of course you can, any individual for any organisation, you might get in contact with Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party others as well. Of course you can, of course you can approach any organisation and ask if they have data. But but the data concerned is the electoral register, it’s nothing nefarious,” she said. 

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Other parties have rejected that Sinn Féin’s practices are standard, with Fine Gael Senator John Cummins saying McDonald’s party has numerous questions still to answer. 

“What we are talking about here is not information gathered on the canvass trail, it is information which is being elicited on social media and cross checked and inputted on their custom-built voter system. Do Sinn Féin deny knowledge of the content in their own training manual?,” Cummins said this morning. 

Asked a number of times where the relevant data was stored, McDonald said this was a “technical question” but that the information is “legally stored in the EU” having being moved from London after Brexit. 

“I have no problem in telling you it’s stored in Frankfurt,” she said. 

Earlier this week, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin had refused to confirm which country within the European Union the database is kept.

“We don’t have to say what country within the European Union it is but it has to be stored within the European Union,” he told reporters on Monday. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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