Tánaiste Micheál Martin has expressed support for Justice Minister Simon Harris introducing facial recognition technology as part of legislation allowing the use of body-worn cameras by Gardaí.
However, the Green Party has raised concerns about the complexity of facial recognition technology, and argues that it cannot be adequately addressed through an amendment to existing legislation.
The Green Party has taken a stand against the controversial plans to quickly implement the use of Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) by An Garda Síochána, calling for the idea to be scrapped.
Minister for Justice Simon Harris had initially planned to enable the use of FRT through an already-existing piece of legislation in progress. However, concerns raised at Cabinet and by members of the Oireachtas Justice Committee have led to the Green Party publicly opposing the plan and advocating for standalone legislation that undergoes comprehensive scrutiny and incorporates expert input.
Green Party Minister of State Ossian Smyth confirmed last week that the party’s stance is in favour of measures to aid the investigation of serious crimes, but believes that the issue of facial recognition technology is too complex to be addressed through an amendment to an existing bill.
“I absolutely agree with the Garda Commissioner that it is very useful technology,” said Smyth during an interview with RTÉ radio’s Today show.
“We want the gardaí to have any technology that’s needed to investigate serious crimes. So there’s no real dispute there. What we’ve said is that we don’t think it should be included in the body cam legislation, which is halfway through its process, that we think that it should be properly debated and that should go to the Justice committee.
“And in fact, the chair of the justice Committee, James Lawless agrees with us, and said that he feels that we should have a proper discussion about the whole of that technology, that facial recognition.”
However, at a Fianna Fáil commemoration at Arbour Hill cemetery this week, when sked about objections to the technology, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that he “understands” the concerns that some have, but added: “I favour the use of facial recognition in very selected, specific circumstances.”
Martin said that “every resource possible” should be provided to law enforcement to prevent serious crimes such as child abuse and murder.
“The criminals are using technology, as we know, and those whose fundamental job is to protect us need the capacity to deal with very sophisticated crime that is out there in the present modern-day world,” he said.
Martin added that while the proposals will be discussed in more detail, he said that he would be “personally OK” with the plan as outlined by Minister Harris.
“Once the adequate safeguards are put in place, I do believe it’s moving in the right direction,” he added.
In recent weeks, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has written to Minister for Justice Simon Harris, stressing the need for new laws that would enable the use of facial recognition technology in conjunction with body cameras for An Garda Síochána. This revelation came to light over the weekend through a report by Independent.ie.