Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called for the Government and opposition parties to take action to ensure media outlets are not pressured by “overbearing influences” in response to the Independent News and Media (INM) data breach controversy.
Mr Martin said he was watching events with “profound concern” and had been “taken aback by the revelations of the last week to 10 days”.
Last week, it emerged that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) is examining issues surrounding the alleged data breach of private information relating to 19 named individuals linked to INM.
The ODCE is to apply to have High Court inspectors appointed to INM on foot of concerns about the proposed purchase of Newstalk radio and an alleged data breach. The case is due to be heard on April 16.
In addition, there are concerns the data of thousands of other individuals stretching back two decades may have also been compromised when the information was examined for disputed reasons by an outside third party.
Newspaper reports yesterday said INM did not fully inform the Data Protection Commissioner of the scale of the data breach — which raises serious concerns over the security of journalists’ sources — while it is expected an independent probe into the controversy will begin within weeks.
A number of Government ministers, including Communications Minister Denis Naughten, have declined to comment on the issue in any depth, citing the fact the controversy is due to be examined in court.
However, Mr Martin, the most senior politician to address the scandal, said what has been unearthed is of “profound concern”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics he said: “I think all of us have been taken aback by the revelations of the last week to 10 days.
“Obviously we have to await the full publication of the affidavit that the ODCE will be representing to the High Court.
“But from my perspective, I’m watching developments with really profound concern with what it entails for us as a democracy,” he said.
Asked what actions should be taken, Mr Martin again noted the court moves, but said he believes it is time the “political system” intervenes.
“It will have to ultimately really involve the political system in making sure that we take decisions that once and for all ring-fence the independence of our media, underpin it, and make sure it’s free from any overbearing influences that can actually act to distort and undermine our democracy.”