Data protection laws make finding candidates for local elections more difficult

Data protection laws make finding candidates for local elections more difficult

New data protection laws are making it difficult to find candidates for May's local elections because of the extra work involved.

Guidelines on the Data Protection Act 2018 and for general data regulation issues for elected representatives were issued before Christmas by the Office of the Data Protection Commission.

Section 40 of the Act provides for "the processing of personal data by elected representatives".

Elected representatives are now “data controllers”, under the guidelines.

Ideally councillors, as well as TDs and Senators, should get permission in writing from constituents before they can represent them on specific matters, even where requested verbally to do so.

Kenmare councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen (FG) said it spells the end of the days when locals can go up to their councillor on the street and ask to have a word or raise matters informally with them.

“You are not supposed to deal verbally - you should have written authorisation now,” he said adding it was "red tape gone mad" and "totally unacceptable".

Councillor Michael Cahill (FF) said normally straightforward representations now are being returned for formal authorisation and councillors have to get back on to constituents.

“It is very time consuming and the public often don’t understand," he said adding that while there is a need for some protection "the way it is going we will soon have to get written consent to raise the repair of a pothole".

The general secretary of the Local Authority Members Association, Fine Gael councillor Bobby O’Connell said the laws are actually "discouraging" candidates. Councillors work has already become very restrive and difficult.

“They have gone too far. What it is doing is it is placing an impediment on representing people. And it is discouraging us from making representations especially now in housing,” Mr O’Connell said of the data regulations.

He pointed to the dearth of candidates in local elections in Kerry with Fine Gael struggling to get new candidates or second candidates in Tralee and Killarney. Fianna Fail has similar difficulties. It too could only manage to get one local candidate in each of the Tralee and Killarney areas.

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