Michael Staines
Michael Staines

09.03 21 May 2021


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A data protection solicitor has said he is “astounded” to hear the Health Minister accusing lawyers of ‘licking their lips” at the thought of suing the State over the HSE cyber attack.

On Newstalk Breakfast yesterday, Stephen Donnelly said it was ‘very distasteful’ that lawyers were eyeing up legal claims while the State was under attack from hackers.

O’Dowd Solicitors in Cork said they received a “flood of calls” from people concerned about their personal data since the attack.

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The firm this week published a blog post inviting anyone affected by the attack to fill in a form so they could “contact you in due course.”

On the show this morning, Solicitor Micheál O'Dowd said he was astounded by the minister’s comments.

“Our job is to represent people,” he said.

“To help them be aware of their rights. To enforce their rights as necessary. It is no more or less than that - it is another organ of the State, the Judiciary, who decides whether it is appropriate or not.

“Licking lips, I completely disagree with. It is just making sure that the ordinary person is aware of their rights in this regard and what the fallout from it will be.”

"Astounded"

Mr O’Dowd’s said he wrote the blog after the firm received a “flood of calls from clients and people who haven’t contacted the office before” enquiring about their data protection rights.

“I am astounded at the response of the minister to an innocuous blog post I put on my website,” he said.

“I am not sure if it was me, maybe it was other solicitors as well regarding the fallout perhaps from the breach of GDPR by the HSE here.”

He said people are contacting his office because they are worried, adding: “It is as simple as that.”

“It is a response to a demand,” he said. “It isn’t trawling for business or anything like that. People are worried about it; they are worried about what it means for them personally and there it is.”

Advertising guidelines

Guidelines from the Irish Legal Services Regulatory Authority prevent solicitors from posting “advertisements which solicit, encourage or offer inducement to a person or a group to make claims for personal injuries.”

Mr O’Dowd said he was not considering personal injury claims when he wrote the blog.

“There are very strict restrictions on advertising for personal injury absolutely,” he said.

“When I was writing this last Monday, it didn’t even cross my mind that there would be personal injuries resulting from this.

“As this issue rages on that may become an issue but as of back then when I put up this post it was pure data breaches and action under GDPR that I was thinking of and that was what clients of mine were worried about.”

Personal medical information

He said that attack was more about the HSE failing to protect people’s data than any attack on the nation.

“It has been characterised as HSE being stolen,” he said. “Really, it is individual’s data, which was entrusted to the HSE, was released and not kept safe in a proper manner.

“If it is in the hands of Russian hackers, we must assume it was not kept safe. That is the first thing. That should not have happened if there were proper procedures in place, we must assume that.”

Main Image: Micheál O'Dowd O'Dowd Solicitor. Image: O’Dowd Solicitors


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