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No log kept of TDs' and Senators' internet browsing history

The Houses of the Oireachtas keeps logs for its own staff, journalists, visitors and contractors but NOT for politicians or their staff, TheJournal.ie can reveal.

Image: computer desk image via Shutterstock

THERE IS NO log kept of browsing data for any member of the Oireachtas, their staff or party staff because of privacy and confidentiality guaranteed under the Constitution.

A decision on a Freedom of Information request from TheJournal.ie for details of attempts to access pornographic websites at Leinster House revealed that there is a log for Oireachtas service staff, journalists, visitors and contractors but this does not extend to members or their staff.

A spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas service said “because they’re elected members, we don’t monitor their phonecalls and by extension of that their emails and internet activity”.

They said this was “for reasons of privacy and confidentiality and in view of their roles as parliamentarians and public representatives”.

This is despite a range of new measures that were introduced last year including picture scanning software aimed at ensuring that no inappropriate material is being viewed by members and their staff.

However the Houses of Oireachtas spokesperson said that while TDs and Senators are subject to the Acceptable Usage Policy that was circulated in September last year, “they are not monitored”.

Telephone call logs

The issue of logging members’ phone calls arose in 2011, when it emerged that 3,600 calls were made from Leinster House to a RTÉ reality TV competition voting for future Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae to win.

At the time the Houses of the Oireachtas said that, under the Constitution, “historically calls made by members are not logged for reasons of privacy and confidentiality”. It therefore has no way of proving if a member is responsible for making particular calls.

In the case of telephone calls, the service provider would draw attention to when there are “significant departures from normal call patterns”, for example, a large number of calls to commercial lines, but there is no equivalent for internet browsing.

When asked if it was not unusual for no log to be kept of attempts to access inappropriate content, the spokesperson said: “In the same way as it might appear odd to people that we don’t monitor their phonecalls”.

Like politics? Then why not ‘Like’ TheJournal.ie Politics on Facebook to keep up to date with all that’s happening in and outside of Leinster House.

Read: Escort and ‘hook-up sites among attempts to access porn at Leinster House>

Read: Healy-Rae won TV show after thousands of calls from the Dáil: report>

Read: No porn and no games: Computer usage rules for TDs and Senators>

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