Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

European Council Meeting: Statements


6:00 pm

Photo of Carol NolanCarol Nolan (Laois-Offaly, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to comment briefly on the EU Council meeting.

I note the European Council will discuss the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of the emergence of a new variant, and that participants will also exchange views on how best to tackle vaccine hesitancy and disinformation and the effectiveness of various measures and strategies adopted in this respect. What I would like to know, and what I need to ask, is the following question: when will we have a debate in the House on the fact the Department of Health employed a social media monitoring company to gather and report all online and Oireachtas commentary, some of which was only questions, relating to Covid-19 and the Government's approach to the handling of the crisis? This was at a cost of almost €100,000.

In October, it was revealed to me following a parliamentary question I tabled on this matter that the Department employed Kinzen Media in early 2021 to monitor the online dissemination of misinformation and disinformation relating to Covid-19 and the Covid vaccine. Were it not for Gary Kavanagh at Gript media the public would not have been made aware of these issues. I pay tribute to Gript for focusing on stories that are of real public concern. Our role as parliamentarians is to ask questions and find better ways to do things. Many Deputies were quoted in these reports. They include many statements of genuine concern from Deputies and Senators. There were also statements from others, including doctors. They were gathered together in daily reports to the Department and the HSE. This was unknown to us and without our consent. By an amazing coincidence, an enormous volume of the so-called misinformation and disinformation related to comments critical of the Government and the policies it has adopted. There was no tendering process for the particular contract awarded. There has been absolutely zero accountability for the fact that a private company was employed by the State to monitor and report the legitimate concern of Oireachtas Members as if they were a threat to the State.


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