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Ruaille Buaille Achta na Gaeilge

Ruaille Buaille Achta na Gaeilge

Muirine Nic Róibín - JF law

Ag líonadh na gceannlínte anseo is ansiúd i mbliana, ceist chigilteach agus achrannach is ea Acht na Gaeilge i dTuaisceart na hÉireann faoi láthair . Le hArlene Foster ag déanamh comparáid idir Gaeil an Tuaiscirt agus crogaill santacha, ní haon ionadh é ach go bhfuil cainteoirí Gaeilge na Poblachta ag cur le céile lena gcomrádaithe ó thuaidh chun troid ar son cearta teanga. ‘An Dream Dearg’ a thugtar orthu go léir, agus seans mór go bhfaca tú an ciorcal bán ar chúlra dearg ag leathnú ar fud na meán shóisialta i measc na nGaeilgeoirí. Ach cad go díreach é Acht na Gaeilge? Cad iad na himpleachtaí a bhainfeadh leis dá gcuirfí i bhfeidhm é? Ar oibrigh achtanna teanga i dtíortha eile – san Albain agus sa Bhreatain Bheag mar shampla? Agus an cheist is mó agus is casta – an mbeidh an caismirt atá ceangailte leis an acht seo fiúntach san fhadtréimhse?

Cad é Acht na Gaeilge?

I dtosach báire – cad é Acht na Gaeilge? Is acht teanga é atá á lorg ag na mílte daoine i dTuaisceart Éireann a labhraíonn an Ghaeilge, a thugann tacaíocht nach beag di, a fhoghlaimíonn faoin domhan inti, agus pobal a bhfuil fás millteanach tagtha uirthi le blianta beaga anuas (meastar i gceann seacht bliana go mbeidh dúbail ar an 6,000 duine a fhreastalaíonn ar an gcóras oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge ó thuaidh).[1] Fuair an Ghaeilge aitheantas oifigiúil mar mhionteanga sa Tuaisceart sa bhliain 1998 le Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta, ach tá comhionannas le Béarla ag teastáil ag lucht tacaíochta na teanga – cearta, cothromas, cóir an mana atá ón Dream Dearg. Gealladh in alt 28D i gComhaontú Chill Rímhinn go bhforbródh stráitéis chun forbairt na Gaeilge agus na hUltaise a fheabhsú agus a chosaint ach creidtear go ndearnadh faillí ar na forálacha sin.

Easaontas faoin Acht

Tá ceist an Achta Gaeilge ar an dris chosáin is mó maidir leis na hiarrachtaí atá ar siúl chun Feidhmeannas Stormont a athbhunú agus ceist na reachtaíochta teanga mar ábhar mór aighnis idir Sinn Féin agus an DUP. Tá an t-acht seo agus a fhorálacha i gcroílár na n-easaontuithe idir an DUP agus Sinn Féin i Stormont. Maíonn Sinn Féin nach rachaidh siad i gcumhacht leis an DUP gan acht Ghaeilge. Tá feachtas an Dream Dearg, ‘Acht Gaeilge Anois’ ag mealladh idir óg agus aosta chun geata Stormont, ag seasamh an fhóid ar son a gcearta. Tá na dá pháirtithe ceanndána, mí-ábalta teacht ar chomhréiteach maidir leis an acht agus dá bharr, tá an idirbheartaíocht ina stad glan. Meastar go bhfuil troid an achta Gaeilge ag cur riachtanais eile an phobail i nguais. Cé nach bhfuil Acht na Gaeilge an t-aon easaontú idir Sinn Féin agus an DUP (tá ceist an phósta chomhghnéis ann freisin), tá sé fós an bac is mó eatarthu.

Cruthaíodh an-chuid teannais agus coimhlint maidir leis an teanga agus a háit i sochaí an Tuaiscirt thar na blianta. Cé gur teanga do chách í, is é an fhadhb atá bainte léi ná go ndearnadh ‘peil pholaitiúil’ aisti ó thuaidh. Mothaíonn lucht mór daoine, go háirithe Protastúnaigh agus aontachtaithe gur seilbh í an Ghaeilge do na Caitlicigh agus na náisiúnaithe amháin – cé nach fíor é sin. Baineann Sinn Féin leas as an teanga chun lucht leanúna a mhealladh, ach cruthaíonn sé seo deighilt idir na pobail agus cruthaítear droch-dhearcadh roimh an teanga.

Dúirt an Ridire Roland Brimstone gur ‘tubaiste’ a bheadh ann dá dtabharfaí reachtaíocht teanga isteach ó thuaidh. Chuir Brimstone i leith Shinn Féin go raibh ‘uirlis chatha pholaitiúil’ á déanamh den teanga acu. Dar le daoine áirithe ó Shinn Féin, cé go bhfuil an t-aighneas den chuid is mó faoin nGaeilge, is siombail é an t-achrann faoin acht den mheas atá ag teastáil ag na náisiúnaithe ó na haontachtaithe. Chuir Foster i leith Shinn Féin go raibh siad ag iarraidh na haontachtaithe a ‘uirísliú’ agus ionsaí a dhéanamh ar ‘shlí maireachtála na Breataine’. Tá na líomhaintí seo idir na páirtithe neamhriachtanach, an t-aon aidhm ann ná coimhlint a bhreoslú.

Feictear teangacha mar chuid de na boinn do neamh-idirdhealaithe i bhfeidhmiú cearta, mar a fheictear in Airteagal 14 den Choinbhinsiún na hEorpa um Chearta an Duine. Ach fós, tá dímheas agus droch-dhearcadh don teanga léirithe ag roinnt figiúirí suntasacha an DUP – Sammy Wilson ag cur ‘Leprechaun Language’ uirthi agus Gregory Campbell ag magadh na teanga le ‘Curry my yoghurt, a can coca colyer’. Mar a thagair mé thuas, rinne Arlene Foster nasc idir Gaeilgeoirí ag iarraidh cearta teanga agus crogaill santacha ag iarraidh níos mó is níos mó bia. Comparáid mhaslach, mhíchothrom is ea í, a chruthaigh stoirm i measc phobail na Gaeilge agus sna meáin i gcoitinne. Stoirm as a n-eascraíodh fearg agus fíoch, agus a threisigh agus a bhreoslaigh an Dream Dearg. An mhí seo caite d’fhógair an DUP nach nglacfaidís le hAcht Gaeilge neamhspleách, agus tá rudaí thar n-ais ag an bpointe tosaigh.

Ó Thaobh an Dlí de

Tá Plécháipéis cuimsitheach foilsithe ag Conradh na Gaeilge i mí Iúil an bhliain seo caite, ag tabhairt eolas cruinn soiléir  maidir leis an reachtaíocht mholta atá ann. Ag briseadh síos impleachtaí an achta, leagan an Plécháipéis síos na 11 rannóg den acht. I measc na bpríomh-fhorálacha atá ag teastáil ná go bhfaighidh Gaeilge stádas céanna le Béarla, go mbeidh comharthaí dátheangach ar na bóithre, cosaint reachtúil a thabhairt don Ghaeloideachas, riar an cheartais (imeachtaí cúirte agus araile) ar fáil trí Gaeilge agus seirbhisí stáit eile.

Achtanna i dTíortha Eile

Conas a oibríonn achtanna teanga i ndlínsí eile? Tá sé luaite sa Phlécháipéis ó thuaidh go gcoimeádfaí na stráitéis sa Bhreatain Bheag, san Albain agus sa Phoblacht in aigne dá gcuirfí reachtaíocht don teanga i bhfeidhm. Feictear An Bhreatain Bheag mar dhea-shampla do mhionteangacha eile timpeall na cruinne toisc an rath a bhí ag an Welsh Language Act 1993 chun an Bhreatnais a chur chun cinn agus a chothú.[2] Labhraíonn 19% den daonra an Bhreatnais, dar leis an daonáireamh 2011. Cuirtear chun tosaigh an Bhreatnais i gcúrsaí oideachais, cúrsaí craolacháin, seirbhísí phoiblí, sa Rialtas agus i riar an cheartais sna cúirteanna. Tá rogha ag an duine dul os comhair na cúirte i dteanga a rogha. Ina theannta sin, táthar in ann teacht ar dhoiciméid agus ar fhoirmeacha dlíthiúla dátheangacha go furasta. Leis an reacht 2003, cuirtear dualgas diúltach ar Stát na Breataine Bige chun áiseanna a chur ar fáil d’úsáideoirí na teanga.

Meastar go gcaitear £150m in aghaidh na bliana chun an Bhreatnais a choinneáil beo agus seirbhísí a choimeád ar fáil do na cainteoirí – sin £2 an duine sa Ríocht Aontaithe má dhéantar an mata. Dar le plécháipéis Chonradh na Gaeilge, agus é ag bréagnú an maíomh go gcosnódh an t-acht £100m in aghaidh na bliana, ní bheadh ach ‘costas réasúnta’ le híoc chun an t-acht seo a chur i gcrích – £4m in aghaidh na bliana agus £9m mar chostas aon uaire.[3] Faoi láthair, tá deich oiread níos mó airgid caite ar sheirbhísí na Gàidhlige ar an BBC ná atá caite ar sheirbhísí na Gaeilge, in ainneoin go bhfuil níos mó cainteoirí Gaeilge ó thuaidh ná cainteoirí Ghàidhlige san Albain, dar leis an daonáireamh. Dá gcuirfí reachtaíocht i bhfeidhm, bheadh ar an BBC, maraon le comhlachtaí poiblí eile, a gcaiteachas ar sheirbhisí Gaeilge a mhéadú.

Bhí an-tionchar ag an reacht sa Bhreatain Bheag don reacht atá i bPoblacht na hÉireann faoi láthair – The Official Languages Act 2003. An scéal céanna atá ann san Albain freisin leis an Gaelic Language Act 2005 seachas nach bhfuil an ceart ann dul os comhair na cúirte ag labhairt na Gàidhlige. I gcás Ceanada, tá an Fhraincis agus Béarla ar an leibhéal céanna – stádas oifigiúil don dá cheann – a bhuí sin leis an Official Languages Act 1988. Toisc tír dhátheangach atá ann go hoifigiúil, tairgtear dreasachtaí do na seirbhísigh phoiblí nach bhfuil an dara teanga acu, chun an teanga eile a fhoghlaim. Sin ráite – tá codán i bhfad níos mó ag labhairt na Fraincise i gCeanada agus ag labhairt na Breatnaise sa Bhreatain Bheag ná atá ag labhairt na Gaeilge sa Tuaisceart. Sin an deacracht a bhaineann leis an acht – níl éinne cinnte conas a oibreodh sé mar níl aon chás go hiomlán céanna i ndlínse eile. Agus gan chinnteacht, tá sé níos deacaire tacaíocht a bhailiú agus é a chur i bhfeidhm.

Conclúid

Ní féidir teacht ar chonclúid faoin ábhar seo, seachas go bhfuil todhchaí an Tuaiscirt éiginnte. Ba chóir do Shinn Féin agus an DUP teacht ar chomhréiteach agus Feidhmeannas a athbhunú chomh luath agus is féidir ar mhaithe an phobail go léir. Táimse féin ar son na reachtaíochta, ach sílim gur chóir acht a bheith ann ar leas achan duine.

[1] Conradh na Gaeilge,  Plécháipéis ar Acht na Gaeilge (Conradh na Gaeilge 2017) <https://cnag.ie/images/Acht_Gaeilge_%C3%B3_Thuaidh/15M%C3%812017_Pl%C3%A9ch%C3%A1ip%C3%A9is_ar_Acht_Gaeilge_%C3%B3_Thuaidh.pdf> ar an 15ú Nollaig 2017 a osclaíodh.

[2] CF Huws, ‘The Welsh Language Act 1993: A Measure of Success?’, Language Policy, (2006) 5(1) 5:14. <https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-006-9000-0> ar an 14ú Nollaig 2017 a osclaíodh.

[3] Conradh na Gaeilge,  Plécháipéis ar Acht na Gaeilge (Conradh na Gaeilge 2017) <https://cnag.ie/images/Acht_Gaeilge_%C3%B3_Thuaidh/15M%C3%812017_Pl%C3%A9ch%C3%A1ip%C3%A9is_ar_Acht_Gaeilge_%C3%B3_Thuaidh.pdf> ar an 15ú Nollaig 2017 a osclaíodh.

Posted by The Editorial Board in TCLR ONLINE, 0 comments

No “I” in Students’ Union: The Constitutional Right to Opt-Out

No "I" in Students' Union: The Constitutional Right to Opt-Out

Eoin Forde - JF Law JEB

Introduction

The issue of mandatory Student Union membership is one that has reared its head on Irish college campuses many times over recent years. The genesis of modern campaigns can be seen in 2015, with some students of UCDSU wishing to ‘opt-out’ due to the union’s position on the Eighth Amendment.[1] More recently, campaigns across multiple other colleges have picked up steam; DCU, NUIG, and Trinity have all seen students organising opposition to mandatory membership.[2] Some students claim it would aid in ensuring the unions are always working for their members, while others simply want the option to be able to leave if they feel like it. Students’ Union Opt Out Project (SUOOP) in TCD, along with many other campaigns, have cited a fundamental right in justifying their campaign: the right to freedom of association.[3]

This raises some questions. Does the right to freedom of association extend to its corollary, freedom of disassociation? Would this freedom of disassociation extend to a student wishing to disassociate from a student union? Finally, if so does the current TCDSU constitution and joint policy program with the college violate this right?

The Irish Constitution is quite clear in its protection of freedom of association, and outlines the rights of its citizens in Article 40.6:

“The State guarantees liberty for the exercise of the following rights, subject to public order and morality…

(iii) the right of the citizens to form associations and unions.”[4]

 

Precedent for Freedom of Disassociation

The freedom to disassociate was recognised in Educational Company of Ireland Ltd v Fitzpatrick (no.2).[5] In Educational Company of Ireland, Budd J outlined a citizen’s freedom to disassociate in relation to mandatory union membership:

‘[U]nder the Constitution a citizen is free to join or not to join an association or union as he pleases. Further, that he cannot be deprived of the right to join or not to join such association or union as he pleases… and that is tantamount to saying that he may not be compelled to join any association or union against his will.’[6]

This ruling was subsequently applied in Meskell v CIE [1973] IR 121.[7] In Meskell, rail workers were offered revised contracts with the added mandatory condition of membership of a representative workers’ union. The plaintiff, a worker who refused to sign this updated contract, argued that it was “a violation of the individual’s freedom of choice”.[8] Walsh J, in applying the ruling of Educational Company of Ireland, stated:

‘[I]f the Oireachtas cannot validly seek to compel a person to forego a constitutional right, can such a power be effectively exercised by some lesser body or an individual employer? To exercise what may be loosely called a common law right… as a method of compelling a person to abandon a constitutional right, or as a penalty for his not doing so, must necessarily be regarded as an abuse of the common law right because it is an infringement, and an abuse, of the Constitution which is superior to the common law and which must prevail if there is a conflict between the two.’[9]

It is within this ruling where the precedent for challenging the mandatory nature of SU membership lies. The right to disassociate must be respected in contractual agreements, such as contracts of employment.[10] The right to disassociate has since been explicitly referred to in Nolan Transport (Oaklands) Ltd v Halligan.[11] In the leading Supreme Court ruling, Murphy J referenced the constitutionally protected right of disassociation in the context of a union dispute, further cementing its existence and prominence as a protected right.[12]

From this, the question may be put forward to the administration of Trinity and TCDSU – what legal basis is there for enforcing mandatory membership of the TCDSU?

 

College and TCDSU Organisational Structure

Understanding the complexity of the relationship between Trinity and TCDSU requires perusing through many charters, statutes, and policy documents. At its heart is the Consolidated Statutes of Trinity College Dublin and of the University of Dublin, 2010. It is from these statutes that power is delegated from the board to the Student Life Committee and then to the Capitation Committee, chaired by the Senior Dean. From here, funds are appropriated to the various capitated bodies – the CSC, DUCAC, TCDSU, TCDGSU and Trinity Publications.[13]

A “capitated body” is a body in College that receives its funding through student capitation; student contribution fees are collected by College and then distributed to the appropriate bodies. Kieran McNulty, former TDCSU president, summarised the capitation model, stating ‘College does not provide us with any money. It comes from students’.[14]

It is from this process which TCDSU derives the first section of its constitution:

“Membership of the union shall be:

  1. All capitated students.”[15]

While the establishment of the TCDSU comes directly from Trinity’s own charters, in practice the TCDSU is an autonomous body. TCDSU does not have to justify any expenses to College, and College cannot stop the TCDSU from commenting or campaigning on any topic.[16] As a union which is intended to advocate for students of the college, it follows that it must be able to hold positions which may be critical of and disagreed with by the college. A cursory glance at the University Times website offers articles detailing TCDSU’s opposition to numerous college policies; its contract with Aramark Catering, the use of single-use plastics around campus, and the increase of student fees.[17]

As a result, a situation has arisen in which enrolling in College compels membership of a union which is virtually independent of College. In such a system, the only way to remove oneself from this union is to become ‘decapitated’, as it were. The only possible way for this to occur is to withdraw from college itself and unregister as a student.

TCDSU’s Membership Model: Closed SU Shop?

From the outset, it appears the main issue comes with the fact that it is currently impossible to leave the TCDSU without also leaving College itself. There is no legislation or statute that discusses the option of students leaving the union.

Furthermore, TCDSU and College have stated in policy that this membership is a binding and deeply entrenched partnership. The Student Partnership Policy states, ‘All students are automatically members of TCDSU and are members of the University’, and ‘The Students’ Union is the only representative body for all students in Trinity College’.[18] Combining these aspects, TCDSU and College have agreed upon a system which compels membership, offers no option to leave, and forces monetary contribution from its students for the privilege. Such a system has been ruled unconstitutional in the previously mentioned cases. Meskell ruled in no uncertain terms that mandatory membership of a particular union in order to be part of another enterprise is unconstitutional.[19]

International Rejection of Mandatory Membership

Mandatory membership of specific student unions has been legislated against in common law jurisdictions similar to Ireland. Australia has the Higher Education Support Amendment (Abolition of Compulsory Up-front Student Union Fees) Bill 2005 which protects against colleges compelling payment for any non-academic good or service. New Zealand has a similar act, the aptly named Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Act 2011. Section 4 of this Act states its purpose as: ‘to uphold students’ rights to freedom of association, by removing any requirement for students to join students’ associations.’[20]

Part II, s22 of the UK’s Education Act 1994 details the requirements to be observed in SU activity, and states:

‘a student should have the right—

(i)not to be a member of the union, or

(ii)in the case of a representative body which is not an association, to signify that he does not wish to be represented by it, and students who exercise that right should not be unfairly disadvantaged, with regard to the provision of services or otherwise, by reason of their having done so.’

The contrast between the position adopted by Ireland in this matter and that of its common law neighbours is stark. Furthermore, it is particularly problematic due to freedom of disassociation being a constitutionally protected right, implied in our written constitution and explicitly recognised by our Supreme Court. It appears that this is an issue which requires examination by College, or possibly the Courts.

Conclusion

A point yet to be addressed by this article is why this is an issue.

As it stands, there are very few students who would argue that their student experience is definitively worse-off due to mandatory membership of TCDSU. TCDSU has done much to support students, with the provision of student spaces, counselling, and other services. The point being made is not regarding the effectiveness of the TCDSU, nor the debate regarding the principle of mandatory membership. The argument is solely regarding the constitutional right to freedom of disassociation, which is violated by mandatory membership.

There is Supreme Court precedent explicitly protecting the freedom of disassociation in similar cases and there is persuasive precedent from similar common law jurisdictions legislating for a voluntary system. At the very least, there is an onus on the State to address this matter, through Department of Education guidelines to Higher Education institutions or perhaps legislation.

This issue could also be resolved by TCDSU and other student unions voluntarily allowing students to ‘opt-out’. If the services offered by student unions in their current form are as beneficial as they purport, there should be very few students willingly opting out of such an arrangement. This would offer students the freedom to disassociate some have reportedly demanded. The resulting situation of student unions having to justify the benefits of membership to its members may also increase the quality of service that it offers, benefitting the student body as a whole.

It also avoids the possibility of a financially draining legal battle, which on the basis of the established precedent would be unlikely to go the way of the student unions. TCDSU and other student unions across the country are finding their positions under threat from student dissatisfaction, divisive policy decisions and encroachment on their authority from the colleges they work with.[21] Perhaps fighting this issue from a position of attempting to justify constitutional infringement is not in their best interests.

[1] Irish Times: ‘Is your students’ union a waste of space and money?’ https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/is-your-students-union-a-waste-of-space-and-money-1.2397299 (Retrieved 10/12/2017).

[2] University Times: ‘In Three Universities Students Seek the Right to Leave Their Union’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/11/dcusu-becomes-third-union-to-see-leave-campaign-launched/ (Retrieved 10/12/2017).

[3] Trinity News: ‘Head to head: Should students be allowed to opt out of TCDSU?’ http://trinitynews.ie/head-to-head-should-students-be-allowed-to-opt-out-of-tcdsu/ (Retrieved 10/12/2017).

[4] Art 40.6.1®.

[5] [1961] IR 345.

[6] Ibid, at 365.

[7] M. Forde and D. Leonard, Constitutional Law of Ireland (3rd edn, Bloomsbury Professional 2013).

[8] [1973] IR 121, at 131.

[9] Ibid, at 135.

[10] R. Clark, Contract Law in Ireland (7th edn, Round Hall 2013).

[11] [1999] 1 IR 128.

[12] Ibid, at 151, ‘‘The issue was whether the protection afforded by that Act could be availed of where the industrial action to be taken infringed the right of the non-union workmen's constitutional right of free disassociation”.

[13] Trinity College Dublin Calendar, 2017-18, at 268.

[14] University Times, ‘Amid Increasing Encroachments on Their Freedoms, Students’ Unions Seek to Legislate for Independence’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/04/amid-increasing-encroachments-on-their-freedoms-students-unions-seek-to-legislate-for-their-independence/ (Retrieved 18/12/17).

[15] TCDSU Constitution.

[16] University Times, ‘Amid Increasing Encroachments on Their Freedoms, Students’ Unions Seek to Legislate for Independence’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/04/amid-increasing-encroachments-on-their-freedoms-students-unions-seek-to-legislate-for-their-independence/ (Retrieved 18/12/17).

 

[17] University Times, ‘TCDSU to Lobby College Against Renewing Aramark Deal’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/11/tcdsu-to-lobby-college-against-renewing-aramark-deal/ (Retrieved 18/12/17); University Times, ‘TCDSU Council Votes to Support Motion on Plastic Solutions Campaign’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/10/tcdsu-council-votes-to-support-motion-on-plastic-solutions-campaign/ (Retrieved 18/12/17); University Times, ‘After Vote, TCDSU to Lobby Against Fee Increase for Pharmacy Students’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/03/after-vote-tcdsu-to-lobby-against-fee-increase-for-pharmacy-students/ (Retrieved 18/12/17).

[18] TCD Student Partnership Policy, 6; Ibid, at 19.

[19] [1973] IR 121.

[20] Education (Freedom of Association Act) Amendment Act 2011, s4.

[21] University Times, ‘Amid Increasing Encroachments on Their Freedoms, Students’ Unions Seek to Legislate for Independence’ http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/04/amid-increasing-encroachments-on-their-freedoms-students-unions-seek-to-legislate-for-their-independence/ - (Retrieved 18/12/17).

 

Posted by The Editorial Board in TCLR ONLINE, 0 comments

The General Data Protection Regulation: An overview of its impact on European Society

The General Data Protection Regulation: An overview of its impact on European Society

Campbell Whyte - JF Law & French

Introduction

In the 21st century, the line between public life and private life is becoming increasingly blurred. Our lives are more online now than ever before. While this loss of privacy is due in part to our own willingness to share on social media, it is also due in part to the necessity of providing personal information online. This article will cover how the European Union has sought to protect privacy in the past and how it continues to do so today.

To exist in the digital age, individuals are required to digitize much sensitive information about themselves: Social media websites store email addresses, dates of birth and much more, hospitals can access detailed medical records, banks store PPS numbers and addresses, and shopping websites retain credit card information. There is little choice but to trust the security and ethics of businesses when giving them information, and while avoiding social media and online shopping may be possible, avoiding institutions such as banks, schools and hospitals is next to impossible. In order to counteract this loss of privacy and to protect people’s personal information, the European Parliament and Council agreed on the General Data Protection Regulation[1] (GDPR) in April 2016.

The GDPR as an International Document

The GDPR will come into effect on 25 May 2018, and companies must show compliance by that date. The GDPR is a significant piece of legislation which took five years to draft and consists of 87 pages and 99 articles subdivided into 11 chapters. It replaces the 1995 Data Protection Directive[2] and is “designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”[3]

The Data Protection Directive, passed to protect citizens in 1995, does not properly address the challenges to privacy in 2018, and the GDPR is designed to modernize data protection practices. Some of the data protected by the GDPR and now stored in online databases is basic identity information including name, address, ID number, and web data such as location, IP address, cookie data, health and genetic data, racial or ethnic data, political opinions and sexual orientation. The GDPR emphasises transparency and customer control and is intended to standardize data security laws, though individual states still retain some freedom.[4]

Under the GDPR, the European Union has much greater authority for prosecuting crimes involving personal privacy. As the GDPR is a Regulation instead of a Directive, it does not need to be incorporated into each country’s body of legislation to take legal force. The GDPR applies to all companies handling the personal information of EU citizens, even if the company is based outside of the EU. Non-EU companies processing the data of EU citizens will have to appoint an EU representative.[5]

Customer Rights under the GDPR

Under the GDPR, customers in the EU have new rights regarding their own data, and informed customer consent is paramount. Terms and conditions must be in an understandable language, retracting consent must be as easy as giving consent, and where consent to use data has been given previously for one purpose, consent must be given again if the company wants to use the data for a new purpose.[6]

Organisations offering online services to children under sixteen must get parental consent to process data, and these organisations are also obliged to make a reasonable effort to verify the age or parental consent of young data subjects. Customers have the right to not be subject to a decision made solely by automated processing that significantly impacts them; this in effect makes nonconsensual profiling illegal unless it is permitted by EU law or unless it is necessary for the fulfillment of a contract.[7]

Data subjects have the right to know what personal data of theirs is being processed and for what purpose, to ask for an electronic copy of their personal data free of charge, and to have this information transmitted to another company. Data subjects are also entitled to have companies erase all their personal data and halt all further dissemination and processing of it upon request, and companies are obliged to erase data that is no longer relevant to the original purpose for which it was collected.[8]

Impact on Business and the Public Sector

Almost all companies and public sector organizations are subject to the GDPR. All organizations whose core operations include processing a significant volume of personal data are obliged to appoint a Data Protections Officer who must be sufficiently well-resourced to carry out his/her duties. The tasks of the Data Protections Officer include notifying data processors of their legal obligations, monitoring compliance under the GDPR and reporting to senior management.[9] The Data Protections Officers must also ensure that companies give a full description of any breaches of personal data to the relevant Data Protections Authority without delay, including the approximate number of people affected, the likely consequences of the breach, and the measures being taken to mitigate the effects on customers.[10]

Legal Penalties for Non-Compliance

Under the GDPR, data infringements, such as insufficient customer consent to process data, poorly organized records, or failure to notify authorities about a data breach, will have greater penalties calculated as a percentage of the company’s annual turnover. There are two tiers of offences, and for more minor offences, a maximum fine of €10,000,000 or 2% of the company’s total annual turnover from the previous year may be imposed. This includes breaches of privacy by design obligations, failure to keep adequate records and failure to meet security requirements. For more severe offences, the maximum fine is €20,000,000 or 4% of the company’s annual turnover.[11] This includes breaches of the basic principles of data processing, infringements of conditions of consent and illegal transfers of data to countries outside of the European Union. These are very significant fines and will be very persuasive in terms of compliance. Companies found to be in violation of the GDPR will be fined without trial, as is current practice, but they may appeal the fine to courts in their own country.

Costs of the GDPR

The GDPR has supporters and detractors among companies that process large amounts of customer data. According to a PwC survey, 68% of US based companies expected to spend $1m to $2m to meet the requirements, and another 9% expected to spend more than $10m.[12] In May 2017, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner estimated that 70% of Irish businesses do not know when the GDPR comes into effect; 25% of businesses do not know when they will start preparations and 83% are unable to name any GDPR changes for their business.[13] Many law firms are profiting by training corporate clients in GDPR compliance, yet smaller firms and charities are concerned that they will not be able to afford such legal counsel. The GDPR may be difficult to enforce, and small businesses that can’t afford sophisticated legal counsel may be hurt by this. As regards large businesses, the consulting firm, Oliver Wyman, predicts that companies in the FTSE 100 index could pay up to £5 billion a year in non-compliance fines when the GDPR comes into effect.[14] However, firms who implement privacy systems compliant with the GDPR could see benefits in the near future, as customers will likely have a preference for companies with strong data protection and fewer data breaches.

The potential impact of the GDPR

The GDPR has the power to effect sweeping change in how companies respect citizens’ data rights, and prevent breaches of privacy that are becoming far too common today. For example, Google has been criticized by the French CNIL for storing customers’ online data for up to two years, for failing to give customers sufficient information on how their data will be used and how long it will be stored, and for failing to cooperate with commissioners. The GDPR could very well make Europe an example to the rest of the world of how to legislate and protect privacy, and as such countries which are not bound by the GDPR may decide to revise their own outdated and insufficient data laws. For example, the US has individual sector-specific regulations but no overarching data privacy legislation, and the UK is not bound by the GDPR now that it has exited the European Union, and both may soon see a need to implement legislation similar to the GDPR.

Conclusion

The GDPR is not without its faults. Some have criticised it for its extraterritorial jurisdiction and concerns about enforceability; others for stifling business through over-regulation. Indeed, it is a substantial piece of legislation, and the first few years may present difficulties while organizations try to adapt. However, these problems do not negate the potential of the GDPR to create long lasting benefits in not just Europe but the world.[15]

For years now the loss of privacy has been lamented as inevitable, and though it is inevitable to some degree, recent change shows that it is not completely unavoidable. Pessimistic beliefs that privacy is dead only lead to an attitude of complacency and acceptance towards violations of rights and thus hasten the demise of privacy. Acts, such as the GDPR, effect genuine change and show us that we are not obliged to passively accept a world in which companies disrespect customer privacy with impunity.

[1] 2016/679

[2] 95/46/EC

[3] European Union General Data Protection Regulation Portal <https://www.eugdpr.org> accessed 5 January 2018

[4] https://www.dataprotection.ie/docs/GDPR/1623.htm

[5] https://www.eugdpr.org/key-changes.html

[6] https://dataprotection.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=1629&ad=1

[7] https://dataprotection.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=1629&ad=1

[8] https://www.eugdpr.org/key-changes.html

[9] ‘General Data Protections: 6 Things You Need to Know’, <https://www.mhc.ie/latest/insights/general-data-protection-regulation-6-things-you-need-to-know> accessed 6 January 2018>

[10] ‘The GDPR and You’, Data Protection Commissioner <https://www.dataprotection.ie/docimages/documents/The%20GDPR%20and%20You.pdf >

[11]‘Reforming Data Protection Law: Introducing the General Data Protection Regulation’ <https://www.mhc.ie/latest/blog/reforming-data-protection-law-introducing-the-general-data-protection-regulation> accessed 2 January 2018

[12] ‘GDPR Compliance Top Data Protection Priority for 92% of US Organizations in 2017, According to PwC Survey’

<https://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/2017/pwc-gdpr-compliance-press-release.html> accessed 3 January 2018

[13] ‘One year to game-changing General Data Protection Regulation but just 14% of SMEs have begun getting ready’

<https://www.dataprotection.ie/docs/EN/25-05-2017-Press-release-1-year-to-GDPR/i/1635.htm> accesssed 3 January 2018

[14]<http://www.oliverwyman.com/media-center/2017/may/ftse-100-companies-could-face-up-to-p5-billion-a-year-in-fines-w.html>

[15] Charles Arthur, ‘Google Privacy Policy Slammed by EU Data Protection Chiefs’ The Guardian (16 October 2012), <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/oct/16/google-privacy-policies-eu-data-protection> accessed 5 January 2018.

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Turp v Canada :  Une décision controverse intouchable par le pouvoir judiciaire

Turp v Canada :  Une décision controverse intouchable par le pouvoir judiciaire

Kaitlin Corbeil - JF Law and Political Science

Le droit international traite surtout de matières reliées aux valeurs fondamentales qui ajoutent à la complexité de la vie humaine, ainsi qu’aux relations entre les états jumelés. Il s’ajoute aux conversations de matières humanitaires en présentant une voix forte en sa légitimé et sévère en sa finalité. Inévitablement relié, le pouvoir judicaire doit surveiller le pouvoir gouvernemental dans les affaires étrangères sans porter atteinte hors de leur juridiction. Cela rend les décisions légitimes des Ministres intouchables par les tribunaux. Ce court essai présentera brièvement l’exemple de Turp v Canada[1] et la décision qui a paru à plusieurs sévère et dépourvu de sens moral.

Les complexités des décisions en droit international humanitaire se retrouvent entre autre parmi les controverses dans lesquelles elles sont vedettes. La demande de contrôle judiciaire du professeur en droit international et constitutionnel Daniel Turp de l’Université de Montréal n’est pas une exception. Il a poursuivi l’affaire du gouvernement Trudeau à la Cour Fédérale, prônant que le Ministre des affaires étrangères n’a pas bien respecté l'intérêt du Canada en délivrant les licences octroyant l’exportation des véhicules blindés légers (VBL) fabriqués au Canada vers l’Arabie Saoudite. Ceci dit, la Cour n’était pas en mesure d’évaluer la conclusion de la décision. Plutôt, son rôle était uniquement d’assurer que le Ministre a eu recours aux évaluations nécessaires lors de sa décision. Considérons la question analysée par la juge Tremblay-Lamer : l’octroi des licences d’exportation pour des VBL vers l’Arabie Saoudite, s'agit-t-il d’une erreur susceptible de contrôle judiciaire? Pour tenter une réponse, les provisions de la section 7 de la Loi sur les licences d’exportation et d’importation[2] ainsi que le complément de la loi, le Manuel des contrôles à l’exportation[3] ont été examiné en profondeur.

Les VBL sont compris dans la liste de marchandises susceptibles d’exportation.[4] D’ailleurs, le Ministre peut accorder des licences pour cette marchandise tout en ayant recours vers les intérêts nationaux du Canada, ainsi que vers une multitude de facteurs à considérer inclus dans le paragraphe 7(1.01) de la LLEI. Ces facteurs peuvent engendrer que la marchandise demandée nuise à la sécurité, aux intérêts de l’État, à la paix ou la stabilité dans n’importe quel pays ou région du monde. De plus, le Manuel offre des facteurs qui peuvent être considérés spécifiquement pour les technologies militaires. Ceux-ci comprennent le contrôle rigide de l’exportation vers certains pays qui constituent une menace potentielle pour le Canada et ses alliés, des pays participants à des hostilités, qui sont frappés d’une Sanction du Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies et aux pays dont les gouvernements commettent de graves violations des droits de l’homme contre leurs citoyens, à moins que l’on ne puisse prouver que les produits ne risquent pas d’être utilisés contre la population civile.

Le demandeur a soutenu que les politiques adoptées par le gouvernement en question de la LLEI demandent un contrôle étroit sur l’exportation de toutes matières militaires pour s’assurer qu’elles ne seront pas utilisées pour commettre des violations des droits de l’homme. Il préconise qu’en évaluant les conséquences possibles de la vente des blindés, le gouvernement n’a pas appliqué les mesures convenables. Afin de démontrer une violation possible des droits de l’homme, Turp propose que le gouvernement a examiné les preuves passées d’utilisations de ces véhicules contre les civils au lieu d’évaluer la présence d’un risque de tels utilisations dans le futur. Ce risque, selon Turp, était suffisamment concret en raison du comportement passé de l’Arabie Saoudite, et du présent conflit avec des minorités religieuses de la péninsule arabique[5].

La décision de l’état explique que depuis le lancement de la relation commerciale entre le Canada et l’Arabie Saoudite, des milliers de VBL ont été exporté vers ce dernier. Contrairement au reportages des journalistes, aucun de ces véhicules n’a été impliqué dans des violations du droit de la personne. Le département du Ministre ne pouvait donc pas confirmer un risque concret pour nier l’octroi de la licence qui apportera de nombreux avantages importants à la santé économique et politique du Canada ainsi qu’au développement de l’industrie de la défense; des considérations qui ne se présentent pas dans l’application du demandeur.

C’est à l’égard de cette conclusion que la décision du Ministre a fait face à un contre coup. L'interprétation était qu’il facilitait les violations des droits de la personne en risquant la sécurité des civils indépendamment des valeurs prédominantes de la société canadienne en vers ce genre d’activité. Plusieurs, le demandeur y inclus, ont mis leur espoir dans la Cour pour fournir une solution, mais elle ne pouvait pas. Elle ne pouvait pas trancher sur la moralité de la décision du Ministre, mais plutôt si la méthode qui a été employé pour arriver à cette conclusion suivait la loi et respectait les promulgations concernées.[6]

La LLEI et le Manuel impose aucune restriction. Au contraire, ils confirment le pouvoir discrétionnaire à la disposition du Ministre, un pouvoir qui lui permet d’agir ou de ne pas agir selon ce qu’il décide est le plus approprié pour l’intérêt public. La Cour devait s’assurer que ce pouvoir discrétionnaire ne serait pas violé par une décision qui s'éloignait de ce qui est la loi et non ce que la loi devrait être dans ces circonstances. La juge Tremblay-Lamer a confirmé dans son analyse que ‘La décision contestée démontre que le Ministre s’est fondé sur les intérêts du Canada en matière de sécurité nationale et internationale ainsi que sur ses intérêts commerciaux et économiques afin de la prendre. Ces facteurs ne sont pas des considérations inappropriées ou étrangères à l’objet de la loi.’[7] De plus, elle a énoncé que contrairement à la position du demandeur, le ministre a considéré le conflit du Yémen, et les implications de l’Arabie Saoudite là-dedans. La décision démontre que le département a eu recours aux commentaires des experts des Nations Unies, les rapports des médias ainsi que les informations fournis par l’ambassade Canadienne à Riyad[8].

La conclusion de la décision aurait certainement pu être différente. Les facteurs considérés par le Ministre ont été évalués selon les objectifs et les priorités du gouvernement et ont finalement été stratifiés d’une façon qui préfèrerait l’octroi de la licence. Les pours et les contres ne seront pas pareils pour tous, dépendant particulièrement sur les valeurs qui composent les idéologies de notre réalité. La Cour n’a pas la fonction de juger si le gouvernement agit moralement; une vérité qui n’est pas souvent réalisée. Contrairement, elle doit s’assurer que le pouvoir gouvernementale a respecté les consignes de la loi et n’a pas été abusé. Ici, le Ministre s’était vu accordé par la LLEI et le Manuel une grande marge de discrétion et il a agi de façon respective aux lignes directives. L’accordement d’un tel pouvoir et le manque de restrictions concernant une branche de droit international si bouleversante peut certainement être analysés de manière critique et se retrouver le sujet de nombreux débats académiques. Pour l’instant, le rôle de la Cour reste celui de surveillance et le pouvoir judicaire toujours au-delà des débats subjectifs et morals, comme on le glorifie souvent naïvement.

[1]  [2017] CF 84

[2] LRC 1985, ch E-19 [LLEI]

[3] Affaires mondiales Canada, juin 2015 [le Manuel]

[4] LLEI (n 2) paragraphe 2

[5] [2017] CF 84

[6] [2017] CF 84 paragraphe 76

[7] ibid paragraphe 51

[8] ibid paragraphe 54

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Satire in Irish law, and comparisons with other jurisdictions

Satire in Irish law, and comparisons with other jurisdictions

Ross Malervy - JEB

The Irish constitution guarantees both the right to a good name[2] and the right to free speech,[3] rights which come into conflict with one another in satire. However, in defamation cases the Irish courts are currently reluctant to rely on these constitutional protections, feeling that rights are adequately protected by existing tort laws.[4]

This piece will discuss the current treatment of satire in Irish law, and will contrast it to the jurisprudence in the United States in order to highlight the effect that distinguishing defamation and satire in law can have.

A ‘defamatory statement’ is defined as ‘a statement that tends to injure a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society’.[5]  In other words, one must merely issue a statement that injures a 3rd party’s reputation in the eyes of the community in order to be potentially liable for defamation.  The intent of the tortfeasor (be it satirical or otherwise) is irrelevant.[6]  Additionally, everyone, even the most repulsive members of society, are assumed to have a reputation that can be damaged.[7]

Satire is defined as ‘the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly, etc.’[8] In the US, satire is famously a defence for many actions of defamation, the case is not the same in Ireland. In 1991, the Law Reform Commission published a report[9], concerning reformation of defamation law. The report briefly commented on satire and stated:

We recommend that, in cases involving allegedly defamatory matter contained in a fictional context, the ordinary requirement of identification should be supplemented by a requirement that the matter be reasonably understood as referring to actual qualities or events involving the plaintiff.[10]

The Commission further noted that there should not be a distinction between a satirical comment and any other defamatory comment ‘solely on the basis that its object is to subject the target to derision or ridicule rather than hatred or contempt’.[11]   The commission concludes by stating ‘We accordingly recommend that there should be no special provision in relation to such material.[12] 

Such a distinction would have potentially influenced the dispute that the online satirical news outlet, Waterford Whispers entered in 2015. The website wrote a piece set in a parallel universe in which the D.P.P prosecutes Dennis O’Brien for bribing politicians. The website subsequently received a cease and desist order from O’Brien’s solicitors. The piece was then reposted by Broadsheet.ie.[13]This situation received a wave of negative publication for Mr. O’Brien, who subsequently did not pursue the Broadsheet in court, however the legal situation of satire has not changed.

A positive change for satire law may come from the precedent set by other jurisdictions, particularly the United States. The courts in the United States draw a distinction between satire and defamation. One author has described the difference as ‘defamation is a malicious lie passed off as truth; satire is a humorous skewering of a cultural or political event.’[14]

Consider the case Hustler Magazine v Falwell[15] , which dealt with whether a satirical article by the pornographic magazine, Hustler, was protected by the first amendment right to free speech. The article insinuated that Jerry Falwell, a televangelist, was a drunkard who had sexual relations with his mother in an outhouse.  Falwell successfully argued in the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal that he had been inflicted ‘emotional distress’ by the publications.[16]

Hustler magazine appealed the finding to the United States Supreme court, which unanimously found for the appellant.  Rehnquist C.J., while acknowledging that the case dealt with emotional distress rather than strict libel recognised that the issue was irrevocably tied with free speech when he stated that the case involved the “novel question involving First Amendment limitations upon a State's authority to protect its citizens from the intentional infliction of emotional distress.”[17]

Falwell argued that the ‘outrageousness’ of the statement meant it was not covered under the first amendment[18] , however Rehnquist CJ rejected this argument, believing public figures should be subject to scrutiny whether satirical (and therefore potentially emotionally distressing) or not. Rehnquist CJ succinctly argued ‘For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas."[19]

The Hustler case followed a liberalisation of libel laws in the United states following the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981.[20] In an article on defamation, Amspacher and Springer wrote how this liberalisation had the unintended consequence of allowing radio personalities to harass people without a legal remedy being available. [21]  plaintiff can escape a case in defamation by arguing that the defamatory statement was merely ‘humour’ and are thus protected by free speech.[22]

The authors draw a key distinction ‘opinion’ and ‘fantasy’, which both the U.S. court and Irish court would benefit from acting on, while protecting free speech of opinions, necessary for political satire  also noting ‘Humorists (sic) can, however, easily entertain their audiences without conveying any intelligible "opinion" in the course of their remarks’.[23] The authors raise the argument that a defamation act  should be restricted to cases where ‘after applying an objective test… no meaningful opinion that the speaker communicated (could be found)’.[24]

In conclusion it is submitted that there should to be a distinction drawn in law between   satire and defamation. However, there ought to be a more moderate approach than that taken in the United States, wherein free speech has taken prevalence over the right of individuals to a good name and instead insisted on an approach where courts distinguish a person’s ‘opinion’ (protected under free speech) from ‘fantasy’ designed to defame an individual.

[2]Article 40.3.2°.

[3] Article 40.6. 1° i.

[4] Bryan McMahon and William Binchy, The law of Torts (4th edn, Butterworths 2013) Para 34.05.

[5] Defamation act 2009 s 2.

[6] McMahon and Binchy (n4) Para 34.18, para 34.50.

[7]  Ibid Para 34.90.

[8] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/satire.

[9] Law Reform Commission, Report on The Civil Law of Defamation (LRC CP 8— 1991).

[10] Ibid para 7.51.

[11] Ibid para 7.54.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Admin, ‘Meanwhile, In A Parallel Universe’ (August 6th, 2015) http://www.broadsheet.ie/2015/08/06/meanwhile-in-a-parallel-universe-2/ accessed 17/12/2017

[14] http://kellywarnerlaw.com/satire-v-defamation/. accessed 18/12/2017

[15] Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 US 46 (1988).

[16] Ibid 46.

[17] Ibid 50.

[18] Ibid 52-53.

[19] Ibid 56.

[20] Catherine L. Amspacher and Randel Steven Springer, ‘Humor, Defamation and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: The Potential Predicament for Private Figure Plaintiffs’ (1990) 31 WMLR 701.

[21] Ibid 701-702.

[22] Ibid 734.

[23] Ibid 730.

[24] Ibid 731.

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