Plans to expand laws on use of facial recognition technology


The Government is to fast-track and expand controversial new laws to help to quell riots and disorder as it deals with the fallout from last week’s violent scenes in Dublin.

Embattled Justice Minister Helen McEntee is to bring forward legislation to enable facial recognition technology (FRT) to quickly prosecute offenders involved in violence and looting. The use of the technology was initially drawn up to deal with murder, rape, terrorism, and child sexual abuse.

However, the expanded proposals have been met with resistance including from her Government colleagues in the Green Party who have raised concerns about the use of FRT.

A spokesperson for Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the party has supported giving gardaí bodycams and also agreed to a separate, standalone bill allowing retrospective use of FRT in serious cases if it is subject to pre-legislative scrutiny.

“We await the full details of the extra categories of offences that Minister McEntee proposes to allow FRT be used to help investigate.”

‘Distracting people’

Labour’s justice spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the minister must stop producing legislation in an attempt to deflect from serious issues in justice. He said there has been a consistent pattern of announcing legislation to distract people from the key issues of a lack of resources for frontline workers such as gardaí.

However, Ms McEntee said it is important that gardaí have the technology available to them to access footage as quickly as possible and to make sure the “thugs and criminals” that are responsible for the destruction in Dublin are brought to justice.

“What I intend to do is bring forward that legislation in the coming weeks,” said Ms McEntee, adding that FRT will allow those responsible for the scenes on Thursday to be brought to justice in days and weeks rather than months.

Coalition leaders are to meet on Monday night to discuss the next steps in ensuring the ugly and violent scenes last Thursday night cannot happen again and to review the Garda response.

Ms McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris are also set to face further scrutiny this week in the Dáil with statements expected on Tuesday as Sinn Féin considers a motion of no-confidence in the minister.

Government TDs are also not yet convinced that the raft of measures, including legislation already announced, will be enough to prevent further calls for Ms McEntee to resign.

Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney said lessons will be learned from last week. 

“Certainly, there were parts of Dublin City where rioting was causing complete carnage,” said Mr Coveney. “It took time for An Garda Síochána to get control of the situation, that’s true, but 400 gardaí were on the streets at very short notice when this issue spiralled very quickly.”

Meanwhile, a child injured in the stabbing incident on Thursday which precipitated the riots remains in critical condition in hospital. A childcare worker who tried to protect the child and two others is in serious condition. 

The main suspect in the attack, a man in his 40s, is still being held in a Dublin hospital where gardaí are monitoring him and are waiting to question him.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called on workers in Dublin city centre to assemble at the GPO at 1pm on Monday to “clearly denounce violence and riotous behaviour in a solemn and respectful way”.


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