1 September 2021
By Tom Collins
These days it is normal to do some data housekeeping on a phone. I routinely delete messages and photos. However, when someone is a Minister there is a grey area because correspondence is supposed to be kept, but do text messages constitute correspondence? The SocDems Deputy Gannon has written to the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee asking that this matter of Deputy Coveney deleting some mobile phone messages be investigated.
The Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee “must” investigate the revelation that, Foreign Affairs Minister, Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney’s phone was hacked, that’s according to the Social Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gary Gannon.
“Yesterday, while answering questions at the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee about his failed attempt to appoint Katherine Zappone as a special envoy, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he routinely deletes text messages from his phone due to storage issues with his phone.
“Today, the story has changed. Now, we are told that the Minister regularly deletes messages from his phone as his phone was previously hacked. Bizarrely, the Minister made this revelation in an entirely cavalier fashion – failing to allude to the fact that the hacking of his phone is a serious national security concern.
“Today, I have written to the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee asking that this matter be investigated. We need to know how many times the Minister’s phone was hacked, when did it happen, how did it happen, what data was breached, whether any contemporaneous investigation took place and what steps – other than the Minister deleting his text messages – have been taken to protect against this grave national security breach occurring again.
“The Minister has an obligation to retain official records, including his text messages – not least so they can be accessible under the Freedom of Information Act. The Minister should therefore not be engaged in a practise of bulk deleting text messages on a regular ad hoc basis. The Minister should especially not be doing this in a purported attempt to thwart hackers. One would have hoped the State had better ways to protect sensitive Ministerial records and information.
“I am hopeful that the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee will quickly respond to my request that this matter is investigated as a matter of urgency.”