Taoiseach defends Enda Kenny over Facebook lobbying claims

Leo Varadkar pictured with Enda Kenny last summer

The Taoiseach has moved to defend his predecessor Enda Kenny over claims that he lobbied on behalf of Facebook while in office.

However, Leo Varadkar has said large companies and groups lobby him "all the time" and their representations are "taken on board".

Over the weekend it was claimed that Mr Kenny had lobbied on behalf of Facebook to influence EU data protection laws.

It had been reported that Mr Kenny offered to use the “significant influence” of the EU presidency in 2013 to promote Facebook's interests among the other EU member states on EU data protection laws.

Mr Varadkar said the Government should be judged on its actions citing the introduction of the GDPR. He said the office of the data protection commissioner had also been "totally beefed up".

"When Enda Kenny took over as Taoiseach it was a small under-resourced office headquartered over a Spar in Portarlington and he really took that on."

Mr Varadkar said the Government has a good relationship with all multinationals which have bases in Ireland, from tech firms to pharmaceutical companies.

"But we don't have a relationship with Facebook that is closer than any other relationship that would exist with any large firm."

He added:

Do companies lobby me as Taoiseach? Yeah certainly all the time, absolutely everyone who comes into my office lobbies me about something, that is what you do as a politician.

"So whether it's a company, whether it's an NGO, whether it's a representative organisation of business or farmers or a trade union, they don't come into the office to tell me what a great job I am doing, they come into the office to tell me that they want public policy changed in some area, that they want funding for something or that they want me not to do something I intend to do."

He said these views are "taken on board" and a decision is then made.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton also moved to defend former Taoiseach Mr Kenny claiming the Government is not in the pocket of online giants.

"Whatever perceptions might be sought to be created I think the reality is very different," said Mr Bruton.

"It's a matter for Enda to decide whether he wants to comment but I think the evidence is very clear that there has been no diminution of the vigilance of data protection in Ireland.

Asked if the outside view is now that Ireland is "in the pocket" of Facebook and other tech giants, Mr Bruton said: "I think the evidence is absolutely clear that we are not".

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