Sinn Féin facing calls to discuss secret voter database
before Oireachtas Committee
© Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald seen outside Stormont in Belfast, speaking to the media following a loyalist protest in the city against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol. On Monday, April 19, 2021, in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Local Government is being asked to call Sinn Féin before a hearing to discuss its secret voter database and use of social media.
Fine Gael Senator John Cummins has written to Committee chair Steven Matthews asking him to schedule time for questioning of Sinn Féin in the context of their pre-legislative scrutiny of the Electoral Reform Bill.
In his letter, Mr Cummins said he has “deep concern” about Sinn Féin’s Abú system, which he noted the Data Protection Commissioner has raised a series of questions about.
“I believe there is an onus on our committee to set aside time to invite a senior representative(s) of Sinn Fein before us to answer a series of questions on the reports that data is being gathered online and integrated into their Abú voter system,” the senator added.© REUTERS/Lorraine O’Sullivan Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a public meeting Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lorraine O’Sullivan
“The learnings from these interactions could and should have a bearing on the Electoral Reform Bill which we are currently examining. It is crucial that this Bill is robust enough to ensure that all parties in this State operate on a level playing field and that protections are implemented to avoid outside interference in our democratic system,” he added.
Mr Cummins also said the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) should be called before a hearing so members can hear its views on Sinn Féin’s Abú database.
The Committee is meeting in private this morning and the proposal will be debated by members. A Fine Gael source said they believe Fianna Fáil and the Green Party will support the proposal.
The move comes after Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien called on Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to address the Dáil about her party’s secret voter database.© Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald seen outside Stormont in Belfast, speaking to the media following a loyalist protest in the city against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol. On Monday, April 19, 2021, in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Mr O’Brien said he was “hugely concerned” about Sinn Féin’s Abú system, which he said raised “serious issues about the integrity of our electoral system”.
“I do think it behoves a proper response from Sinn Féin on how this database has come about, what type of information is on it and how many thousands or millions of people’s information is on it,” Mr O’Brien told the Sunday Independent.
“Mary Lou McDonald should answer questions in the Dáil on it,” he added.
The Fianna Fáil minister said he would also be asking the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Local Government, Mr Matthews, to extend the current legislative debate on the Electoral Reform Bill so issues relating to Sinn Féin can be discussed.© REUTERS/Lorraine O’Sullivan Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald speaks at a public meeting Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Mr O’Brien also said he would be writing to the Data Protection Commissioner to ask whether additional legislation is needed to protect personal information on the electoral register and online.
“I have always had concerns about how Sinn Féin operate in the shadows and now some of those shadowy dealings have come to light and they have got to address it,” Mr O’Brien said.
Minister of State for Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, said he would also be asking the Oireachtas Committee to consider including a session on “the ethical use of the electoral register”.
“I would hope that, over time, the electoral commission will be given additional roles and funding to promote greater transparency and accountability within our electoral system,” the Green Party minister said.
Fred Bassett, The True Republican at Heart – no time for the Monarchy either.
I am addled or then maybe not. Sinn Fein have always operated outside the box in relation to Elections and data management but this time they have decided to ape the Dominic Cummings approach…remember he lost his job in Westminster but he was no dreamer. Check out the film The Uncivil War. Then add in Cambridge Analytica/Facebook linked to one of the worlds richest men Robert Mercer (Catholic to the core) to Bannon of Breitbart and what they have done is “stood up on the shoulders of giants” – something that is deep in their DNA.