Ireland: The International Comparative Legal Guide To: Data Protection 2015


1.1 What is the principal data protection legislation?

Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 ("DPA").

1.2 Is there any other general legislation that impacts data protection?

Freedom of Information Act 2014

This gives a legal right for persons to access information held by a body to which FOI legislation applies; to have official information relating to himself/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading; and to obtain reasons for decisions affecting himself/ herself.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the "Whistle-Blowers Act")

This has introduced legislation in relation to whistle-blowers in Ireland for the first time.

S.I. No. 541/2014 – Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 (Commencement) Order 2014

This enacts Part 3 of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008 which provides for various forms of mutual legal assistance to foreign law enforcement agencies.

S.I. No. 658/2007 – Data Protection (Fees) Regulations 2007

This outlines the fee for registration and for prior checking.

S.I. No. 657/2007 – Data Protection Act 1988 (Section 16(1)) Regulations 2007

This outlines the organisations that will be required to register with the ODPC.

S.I. No. 83/1989 – Data Protection (Access Modification) (Social Work) Regulations, 1989

Outlines specific restrictions in respect of social work data.

S.I. No. 351/1988 – Data Protection (Registration) Regulations, 1988

This outlines the details that must be contained in forms for registration with the ODPC.

S.I. 350 of 1988 – Period of Registration

This outlines the period that registration lasts for (1 year).

S.I. No. 347/1988 – Data Protection (Fees) Regulations, 1988

The fee that an organisation may charge for an Access Request (€6.35) and the fee for a certified copy of a Register entry (€2.54).

1.3 Is there any sector specific legislation that impacts data protection?

S.I. No 337 of 2014 – Data Protection Act 1988 (Commencement) Order 2014 and S.I. No 338 of 2014 – Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003 (Commencement) Order 2014

This makes it unlawful for employers to require employees or applicants for employment to make an access request seeking copies of personal data which is then made available to the employer or prospective employer. This provision also applies to any person who engages another person to provide a service.

S.I. No. 336/2011 – European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011 ("E-Privacy Regulations")

This deals with specific data protection issues relating to use of electronic communication devices, and particularly with direct marketing restrictions.

S.I. No 421 of 2009 – Data Protection Act 1988 (Section 5(1)(D)) (Specification) Regulations 2009

This outlines the exemption from the DPA of the use of personal data in the performance of certain functions of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and inspectors appointed by the High Court or Director of Corporate Enforcement.

S.I. No. 687/2007 – Data Protection (Processing of Genetic Data) Regulations 2007

This outlines restrictions in respect of processing genetic data in relation to employment.

S.I. No. 95/1993 – Data Protection Act, 1988 (Section 5 (1) (D)) (Specification) Regulations, 1993

This outlines the exemption from the DPA of the use of personal data in the performance of certain functions of the Central Bank, the National Consumer Agency, various functions performed by auditors under the Companies Acts, etc.

S.I. No. 81/1989 – Data Protection Act, 1988 (Restriction of Section 4) Regulations, 1989

This outlines the restriction on the right of access to information on adopted children and information the Public Service Ombudsman gets during an investigation.

S.I. No. 82/1989 – Data Protection (Access Modification) (Health) Regulations, 1989

This outlines certain restrictions in the right of access relating to health data.

1.4 What is the relevant data protection regulatory authority(ies)?

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner ("ODPC"). In 2014, Helen Dixon was appointed as the new Data Protection Commissioner, succeeding Billy Hawkes.


2.1 Please provide the key definitions used in the relevant legislation:

  • "Personal Data"

    Data relating to a living individual who is or can be identified either from the data or from the data in conjunction with other information that is in, or is likely to come into, the possession of the data controller.
  • "Sensitive Personal Data"

    Means personal data as to:

    1. the racial or ethnic origin, the political opinions or the religious or philosophical beliefs of the data subject;
    2. whether the data subject is a member of a trade union;
    3. the physical or mental health or condition or sexual life of the data subject;
    4. the commission or alleged commission of any offence by the data subject; or
    5. any proceedings for an offence committed or alleged to have been committed by the data subject, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.
  • "Processing"

    In relation to information or data, means performing any operation or set of operations on the information or data, whether or not by automatic means, including:

    1. obtaining, recording or keeping the information or data;
    2. collecting, organising, storing, altering or adapting the information or data;
    3. retrieving, consulting or using the information or data;
    4. disclosing the information or data by transmitting, disseminating or otherwise making it available; or
    5. aligning, combining, blocking, erasing or destroying the information or data.
  • "Data Controller"

    Means a person who, either alone or with others, controls the contents and use of personal data.
  • "Data Processor"

    Means a person who processes personal data on behalf of a data controller but does not include an employee of a data controller who processes such data in the course of his employment.
  • "Data Owner"

    No definition in Irish law.
  • "Data Subject"

    Means an individual who is the subject of personal data.
  • "Pseudonymous Data"

    No definition in Irish law.
  • "Direct Personal Data"

    No definition in Irish law.
  • "Indirect Personal Data"

    No definition in Irish law.


3.1 What are the key principles that apply to the processing of personal data?

  • Transparency

    Data subjects must be provided with information relating to the processing of their data. This includes:

    1. the identity of the data controller or their representative and/or the data processor;
    2. the purposes for which the data are intended to be processed; and
    3. any other information that is necessary, having regard to the specific circumstances in which data are to be processed, including but not limited to details of recipients or categories of recipients of the personal data and information as to the existence of the right of access and the right to rectify data.
  • Lawful basis for processing

    1. consent of the data subject (specific, freely given, informed);
    2. the processing is necessary:

      1. for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party;
      2. in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract;
      3. for compliance with a legal obligation to which the data controller is subject rather than an obligation imposed by contract;
      4. to prevent –

        1. injury or other damage to the health of the data subject;
        2. serious loss or damage to property of the data subject, or otherwise to protect his or her vital interests where the seeking of the consent of the data subject is likely to result in those interests being damaged;
      5. for compliance with a legal obligation including:

        1. the administration of justice;
        2. for the performance of a function conferred on a person by law;
        3. for the performance of a function of the government or a minister of the government;
        4. for the performance of any other function of a public nature which is performed in the public interest;
      6. for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the data controller (or third party to whom the personal data are disclosed).
  • Purpose limitation

    Personal data should only be obtained for one or more specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and should not be further processed in a manner incompatible with that power or those purposes.
  • Data minimisation

    Personal data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they were obtained.
  • Proportionality

    Personal data collected must be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are collected or are further processed.
  • Retention

    Personal data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it was obtained.

    If the purpose for which the information was obtained has ceased and the personal information is no longer required, the data must be deleted or disposed of in a secure manner.
  • Other key principles

    Data security (covered in more detail in section 13 below).


4.1 What are the key rights that individuals have in relation to the processing of their personal data?

  • Access to data

    Under section 3 of the DPA, data subjects have the right to, free of charge, find out if an organisation or an individual holds information about them. This includes the right to be given a description of the information and to be told the purposes for which that information is held. A request for this information must be made in writing by the data subject and the individual must receive a reply within 21 days according to the DPA.

    Section 4 of the DPA provides that data subjects have the right to obtain a copy of any information which relates to them that is held either on a computer or in a structured manual filing system, or that is intended for such a system. A fee of €6.35 is required when a request is made under section 4 and the organisation or entity is given 40 days to reply to such a request.

    Exceptions to the right of access:

    The DPA set out specific circumstances when an individual's right of access to their personal information held by an organisation may be restricted.

    Disclosure is not required if the information would be likely to:

    1. hinder the purposes of anti-fraud functions;
    2. damage international relations;
    3. impair the security or order in a prison or detention facility;
    4. hinder the assessment or collection of any taxes or duties; or if
    5. disclosure of estimates of damages or compensation regarding a claim against the data controller is likely to cause damage to the data controller.
    Certain information is also exempt from disclosure if the information is:

    1. protected by legal privilege;
    2. used for historical, statistical or research purposes, where the information is not disclosed to anyone else, and where the results of such work are not made available in a form that identifies any of the individuals involved;
    3. an opinion given in confidence; or
    4. used to prevent, detect or investigate offences, or will be used in the apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
    If a request would be either disproportionately difficult or impossible to process, the data controller or processer does not have to fulfil the request.

    Exemptions also apply in respect of access to social work data; disclosure of such may be refused if it is likely to cause serious damage to the physical, mental or emotional condition of the data subject.

    A request for health data may also be refused if disclosure of the information is likely to seriously damage the physical or mental health of that data subject.
  • Correction and deletion

    Section 6 of the DPA provides data subjects with the right to request in writing to have their data either deleted or corrected, where the data is not obtained lawfully or is inaccurate. The data controller or processor must respond within a reasonable amount of time and no later than 40 days after the request. There is no express right of a data subject to request the deletion of their information if it is being processed lawfully.
  • Objection to processing

    Under Section 6A of the DPA, data subjects have the right to object to processing which is likely to cause damage or distress. This right applies to processing that is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller to whom the personal data is, or will be disclosed, or processing that is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority.
  • Objection to marketing

    Under section 2.7 of the DPA, data subjects have the right to, following a request by writing, require the data controller to cease processing data for that purpose, and where it is only retained for that purpose they have the right to have it erased. The data controller must do this within 40 days.

    Under sections 13 and 14 of the E-Privacy Regulations, data subjects have the right to have their "opt-out" preference recorded in the National Directory Database, which constitutes an objection to direct marketing to them.
  • Complaint to relevant data protection authority(ies)

    Under Section 10 of the DPA, data subjects have a right of complaint to the ODPC in relation to the treatment of their personal data. The ODPC must investigate such complaints unless it considers them to be 'frivolous or vexatious'.

To read this Chapter in full, please click here.

This article appeared in the 2015 edition of The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Data Protection; published by Global Legal Group Ltd, London.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.