Concerns over alleged data breaches in Kerry

Concerns have been raised that personal data, including mobile phone numbers, of successful housing applicants have been emerging from Kerry County Council.

At a recent council meeting, several councillors claimed breaches had occurred and had been happening for some time.

Council chief executive Moira Murrell issued a strong denial that data protection breaches had occurred, saying she could “stand over” her assertion that no private individual’s information was leaving the local authority.

“The information that is held within the housing file stays within the housing file,” said Ms Murrell.

When councillors persisted with their claims that breaches were occurring, Ms Murrell said the council had very good systems and processes.

She urged members of the public who had a concern to complain to the Data Commissioner or to the council’s director of housing.

Listowel Fine Gael councillor Mike Kennelly said he had been contacted by a constituent whom he had represented when she had been allocated a house.

In the morning, before Mr Kennelly’s post arrived telling him she had got the house, “a certain deputy was on the phone wishing her well”, he said.

“She asked me how the deputy got her mobile number,” added Mr Kennelly.

The same thing happened to a second person who got a housing allocation — they also asked how the deputy got their mobile number.

South and West Kerry Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Cahill said people were getting contacted “at 7am and 7.30am”.

“This is going on for years and years and years,” said Mr Cahill.

Martin O’Donoghue, the council’s director of housing, said that the allocation of houses was “an executive function” and all councillors are notified at the same time.

Tralee Sinn Féin councillor Toiréasa Ferris said she would love to accept the assurances of the chief executive, but said there is something wrong in the system.

She said she knew of a case where personal data about an individual in the grant system had emerged.

“There is certainly a breach of data protection in this council,” said Ms Ferris, adding that it was “the system”, not any individual.

When contacted about the practice, Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said he has only ever phoned someone about a house if he had already been dealing with them at one of his clinics.

“We have a system and when people come to me about housing they are on our computer,” said Mr Healy-Rae.

The only person he has ever contacted about a house is “somebody I have been working for”, he said.

Mr Healy-Rae said he would deal with dozens of housing applicants at each clinic in north Kerry.

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