Fianna Fail raises data protection concerns over student grant controversy

Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has written to the Data Protection Commissioner about the controversy over linking household charge payments to applications for third level grants.

Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has written to the Data Protection Commissioner about the controversy over linking household charge payments to applications for third level grants.

When questioned by Deputy Cowen in the Dáil, the Environment Minister was unable to answer whether or not the Commissioner had been contacted about the matter.

Deputy Cowen said, “Minister Hogan was unable clarify if his Department or Clare County Council sought any advice on data protection issues before demanding that students applying for grants produce proof that their families have paid the household charge.

“This new practice, which the Minister has now endorsed, is heavy-handed and invasive. It is important to establish that each family and each individual’s right to privacy is protected. As the Minister was unable to answer my question in this regard, I have written to the Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes seeking clarification on any potential breaches of privacy.

“In my view, there is no justification for linking student grant applications to household charge payments. While it is no major surprise that Minister Hogan would defend a practice aimed at cleaning up his own mess, students will find it extremely disappointing that the Education Minister has failed to stand up for them, and has so easily accepted a threat to vital education supports.”