Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly TD has called on the Taoiseach to clarify exactly what involvement he and his ministers had in the State hiring private investigators to spy on doctors.
This follows a Dáil interaction between the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. The Taoiseach defended his Government’s decision to spy on doctors, citing the activities of Revenue inspectors. Specific to the question of ministerial involvement, the Taoiseach responded to Deputy Martin that there was ‘no ministerial involvement in the execution of the strategy.’
The Taoiseach also confirmed that no contracts were put in place between the State and the private investigators.
Deputy Donnelly commented, “Today’s interactions raise several questions. First, what level of knowledge did he, or any of his ministers, have about the hiring of private investigators to spy on doctors? Second, why was no contract put in place with the private investigators? Third, what other methods of surveillance have been employed by his government to spy on doctors, or any other private citizens?
“It is deeply worrying to hear the Taoiseach defend the practice of the State putting citizens under surveillance, because they’re taking a case against the State. There was no issue of national security. It is also worrying to hear the Taoiseach compare the hiring of private investigators to the work of Revenue Inspectors. Ireland’s Revenue Inspectors conduct their business according to primary legislation, overseen by Government, the Oireachtas and, if required, the Courts. Their work can be investigated and audited. None of these safeguards apply in the case of private investigators hired, apparently without contracts, to spy on private citizens.
“The HSE asked the Government to stop its surveillance, and rightly so. Despite the objections of the HSE and their legal team, the Department of Health ordered this surveillance to continue. Not only has this action failed to identify any significant breaches, it has damaged industrial relations, threatened ongoing negotiations and damaged the trust of front-line workers in our struggling health service.
“The Government has crossed a dangerous line. It raises serious questions around the privacy rights of patients, data protection and potential abuse of power. The Government must clarify who knew about this strategy, who approved it and what other surveillance they have authorised.”