Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport

Scrutiny of EU Legislative Proposals

Photo of Kieran O'DonnellKieran O'Donnell (Limerick City, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Apologies have been received from Senator Buttimer and Deputy Matthews. We are dealing with further scrutiny of the EU proposal COM (2021) 281 to establish a framework for a European digital identity. To preface our discussion, an observation from the Data Protection Commissioner was circulated to members earlier this morning. It is available on our Microsoft Teams portal now. I suggest that members read that document straight away. It is short in length but heavy in content, and relevant to our deliberations today. The document has also been sent to members by email. Following its engagement on the COM (2021) 281, the committee will decide on how it wishes to proceed with its scrutiny of this proposal. We will have a short private meeting immediately after the conclusion of this public session.

I welcome witnesses from the Departments of the Environment, Climate and Communications and Public Expenditure and Reform. I thank them for coming in today at short notice and facilitating this meeting going ahead. From the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, I welcome: Ms Mairéad McCabe, principal officer in the telecommunications policy and regulation division; Ms Catherine McDonald, assistant principal officer in the telecommunications policy and regulation division; and Mr. Rory Hinchy, staff engineer in the office of the chief technology officer. From the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I welcome: Mr. Barry Lowry, Government Chief Information Officer; and Mr. Declan Hickey, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, OGCIO.

Witnesses are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks and it is imperative that they comply with any such direction. Witnesses attending remotely outside of the Leinster House campus should note that there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege and, as such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses who are physically present. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should also be mindful of their domestic law and how it may apply to evidence they give. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the Houses or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

For anyone watching this meeting, Oireachtas members and witnesses now have the option of being physically present in the committee or to join the meeting remotely via Microsoft Teams. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the Leinster House complex in order to participate in public meetings. Reluctantly, I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement.

Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts will be asked to leave the meeting. In this regard, I would ask any member participating via MS Teams, prior to making his or her contribution to the meeting, to confirm that he or she is on the grounds of the Leinster House campus. If attending in the committee room, you are asked to exercise personal responsibility to protect yourself and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. I strongly advise the practice of good hand hygiene and to leave at least one vacant seat between you and others attending. One should also always maintain an appropriate level of social distancing during and after the meeting. Masks should be worn at all times during the meeting except when speaking.

I call on Ms Mairéad McCabe to make her opening statement.


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