Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Thomas Byrne has called on the Data Protection Commissioner to investigate reports that the private details of a family in receipt of social welfare benefits were leaked to a Labour Party Senator.
 
Senator Byrne raised the issue in the Seanad today (Tuesday, 27 September) following widespread newspaper reports outlining the full details of the payments allocated to one particular family, along with personal details about members of that family.  
 
Senator Byrne said: “If it transpires that these details were leaked by Government officials, it would be gross breach of their duty to protect the privacy of these citizens. It could also be seen as a cynical attempt by the Labour Party to soften the ground for upcoming cuts to social welfare.
 
“Given this family’s particular situation, I am concerned they will be easily identifiable by the details that have been made public so far. This is highly unfair and totally illegal. While I don’t believe that any family should be in receipt of such large financial support from the State, there is no justification for leaking highly confidential information about private citizens.  The requirement to protect the private details of individuals held by Government departments is an extremely serious one.
 
“I have written to the Data Protection Commissioner asking him to investigate this case. A person’s private records must remain private and the public must have full confidence in how their information is handled by the authorities.  There can be no justification whatsoever for using such sensitive material for party political purposes.”