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Children’s Ombudsman ‘angry’ over data revelations
Pic: Shutterstock

26 Mar 2021 / ireland Print

Children’s Ombudsman is ‘angry’ over data revelations

Children's Ombudsman Niall Muldoon has said he is “very angry” after an RTÉ Investigates programme revealed that the Department of Health had been gathering data on autistic children whose families were involved in legal action against the State.

Autism charity AsIAm also said it was “deeply concerned” by the revelations.

Mr Muldoon told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that those involved were the "most vulnerable children in Ireland" and said their families were doing their best to get those children the rights to which they were entitled.

The programme said the Department of Health had, over several years, been using information from private-doctor consultations to build and maintain dossiers on the children.

Consent

The information was gathered without the knowledge or consent of parents, and with the cooperation of the Health Service Executive and the Department of Education, according to the programme.

The Children’s Ombudsman said he “absolutely” wanted the practice stopped, describing it as “an abuse of power”.

AsIAm’s deputy chief executive Fiona Ferris described the actions as “a gross breach of trust”, and added that parents would be wondering how this was allowed to happen, and whether their information was involved.

The charity is seeking an urgent meeting with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the minister responsible for disability, Anne Rabbitte, to discuss the issue.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it had never unlawfully held sensitive medical and educational information on children involved in dormant court cases.

Litigation

It said that it had commissioned an independent, expert review by an external senior counsel after the issue had been brought to its attention last year.

The department said that the review had not identified any breach of data-protection legislation.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland