Statement on Reform of State Bodies’ Surveillance Powers

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has made two significant public interventions highlighting the need to make Ireland’s legal framework governing surveillance, data retention, and the disclosure of records held by service providers compliant with human rights law.

In 2014, it joined a case in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) initiated by Digital Rights Ireland in relation to data protection and retention as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to advise the Court on material human rights matters. In 2016, at his request, the Commission submitted a report to Mr Justice Murray in the course of his Review of the Law on Access to Communications Data, which identified flaws in the legal framework.

In that report, the Commission recommended root and branch reforms to the legislation applying to surveillance, data retention and the disclosure of records held by service providers.

  • The Commission noted that the current legal framework is light touch and not human rights compliant. The Commission further considered that inadequacies in the current framework for data retention and disclosure necessitated root and branch reform.
  • The Commission was clear that, as surveillance technology is outpacing the law, any review of the law should be informed by the relevant domestic and international human rights standards,  and be future-proofed to the greatest extent possible.
  • The Commission was of the view that enhancing safeguards would serve to bolster public confidence in investigations and the wider criminal justice system, ultimately benefitting all stakeholders, including victims of crime.

The Commission believes that reforming the quality of law on surveillance will protect human rights to privacy and press freedoms. Legally robust safeguards will bolster the use of communications data evidence in criminal trials, enhance protections for victims, and mitigate the risk of miscarriages of justice.

The Commission is mandated to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of law and practice in Ireland relating to the protection of human rights and equality, and to make recommendations to the Government to strengthen and uphold human rights and equality in the State.  It will follow closely any legislative progress in this regard.



For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC


Editor’s Note

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission submission to the Murray Review is available at the following link:

Murray Review

The Murray Review (Review of the Law on Access to Communications Data) was established by the Minister for Justice and Equality in January 2016.

  • The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission met with Mr Justice Murray on his invitation, on 1st June 2016, as part of the consultative process undertaken by the Review.
  • The Commission submitted its written examination of issues and recommendations on 13th June 2016.

The Review was mandated to examine the legislative framework in respect of access by statutory bodies to the communications data of journalists held by service providers, taking account of journalistic sources, the need for statutory bodies with investigative and prosecution powers to have access to data in order to detect serious crime, and current best international practice in this area.


Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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