An Irish law for a DNA Database

By EDRi · January 13, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Irisches Gesetz für eine DNA-Datenbank |]

The Irish Government has announced that it will publish legislation this
week to set up a national DNA database. The Bill follows a 2005 Report of
the Law Reform Commission on Establishment of a DNA Database but was delayed
by the European Court of Human Rights action in S and Marper vs. the United
Kingdom and has since been revised in light of that case.

The legislation proposes to allow Gardaí (Police) to forcibly take samples
(such as hair, saliva, nail clippings or blood) from those suspected of
committing a criminal offence carrying a possible sentence of five years
imprisonment or more. Samples will be stored indefinitely where suspects are
convicted; where persons are acquitted or released without charge they will
still be retained for a three year period. 4.1 million euros has been
allocated for the start-up costs associated with the database in 2010.

In 2007, the Irish Human Rights Commission was critical of a previous draft
of the legislation. Until the full Bill is published it is unclear to what
extent it will address these concerns.

In a separate development, it has emerged that a Dublin children’s hospital
has been holding DNA records of almost every person born in Ireland since
1984 without consent. The Temple Street Children’s Hospital has acted as a
national centre for “heel prick tests” which involve the taking of a blood
sample from each newborn child and using that sample to screen for disease.
However, the hospital does not destroy those samples when screening is
complete but instead retains those samples indefinitely, linked to the
individual. There are approximately 1.54 million samples held on this
database, which would include the overwhelming majority of Irish people aged
25 or younger. The hospital is currently under investigation by the Data
Protection Commissioner who may order the destruction of these samples.

Law Reform Commission, Report on the Establishment of a DNA Database

Irish Human Rights Commission, Safeguards in DNA Database Scheme of Bill
‘Inadequate’ (8.08.2007)

Connolly, Suspects forced to give DNA samples under new legislation

Connolly, New DNA Bill faces opposition (20.12.2009)

Dáil debates (10.12.2009)

Tighe, Hospital keeps secret DNA file (27.12.2009)

Tighe, Records stolen from hospital that held secret DNA database

(Contribution by TJ McIntyre – EDRi-member Digital Rights Ireland)