Journalist union 'gravely concerned' over support for Garda photography ban

Minister Flanagan has said transparency "is vitally important"

Journalist union 'gravely concerned' over support for Garda photography ban

Gardaí are pictured during a terror training exercise in 2017 | Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

The Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed grave concern at the support for a ban on photographing Gardaí.

The view was expressed by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan in an interview on RTÉ radio on Monday.

Mr Flanagan said he was "favourably disposed" to introducing legislation to make it an offence to photograph Gardaí while they are undertaking their duties.

It comes after one of the Gardaí who policed a 'Take Back the City' housing protest last week was allegedly threatened after being named and pictured online.

Séamus Dooley, the NUJ's Irish secretary, said: "The National Union of Journalists would be strongly opposed to the proposed restrictions.

"I was surprised and disappointed by the support for such a proposal by the Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan.

"The NUJ condemns online abuse of any individual or group of workers.

"I would support the call by John Jacob, General Secretary, AGSI, for greater vigilance by multinational companies in monitoring and tackling online abuse.

"Gardaí and their families are entitled to protection from such abuse but an outright ban on photographing Gardai at work, as favoured by some representative bodies, would be an infringement on the fundamental rights exercised by the media, as enshrined by the Constitution and specifically protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights."

"It is vital that all organs of the State operate in an open and transparent fashion.

"Those who exercise authority must have a reasonable expectation of public scrutiny and this applies, in particular, to the Gardai and defence forces.

"It is inevitable that those who exercise great power over citizens should be subjected to the greatest scrutiny and should be required to meet the highest ethical standards."

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan talking to the media at the official opening of Kevin Street Garda Station in Dublin | Image: Leah Farrell/ RollingNews.ie

Flanagan's reply

In response, Minister Flanagan said in a statement: "I believe transparency is vitally important; I am on record as favouring Gardaí wearing body cameras.

"I also greatly value the role of the media in providing objective reporting.

"However, I am concerned about the public order dimension of Gardaí having multiple mobile phones thrust into their faces as they try to go about their policing duties.

"In my experience press photographers are professional in how they undertake their duties, they do not impede the Gardaí going about their work.

"This is regrettably not always the case where public order issues arise.

"The uploading of images of Gardaí undertaking their duties on social media and consequent threats and intimidation is unacceptable to me and that is why I am concerned."

The statement continued: "In the course of his interview this morning, the minister acknowledged the concerns which have been raised by Garda representative associations and specifically referred to the publication tomorrow of the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, noting that the welfare and health of members was one of the issues which the report will address.

"At no point did the minister make any reference to any specific plans with regard to photography."