• April 19, 2011


It appears that despite the provisions of the Defence Act 1954 (IRELAND) it is perfectly lawful for educational authorities and employment agencies in Ireland to supply data to the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (UKMOD) when requested to do so by Irish citizens seeking to join foreign armies.

The Celtic League had raised the issue with Irelands Data Protection Commissioner after the UK MOD advised us that it was able to access the data.

Initially the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) was somewhat ambiguous when replying to our query (details of our query can be found at this link):


The DPC responded saying:

“We are not competent to comment on whether the supply of such information would be in breach of the laws of other States”.

We responded as follows:

“Thank you for your reply (ref 2/21/1) to our letter of the 2nd of April the prompt reply is appreciated.

I am afraid that you misunderstood our query in that I asked in our original query:

‘Following on from this can an individual authorise the disclosure of his/her data to a foreign country if that disclosure may breach the laws of Ireland?’

I appreciate that a person can give consent for data to be released. However what I asked was if it would be lawful to release that data if it could (or might) breach the laws of the (Irish) State.

To be clear the MOD have told us that they access data to validate potential applicants from the Republic of Ireland.

Incidentally I am quite certain that the position in other jurisdictions in the British Isles would be that regardless of any consent an individual might give it would not be lawful to supply information if in doing so a law of the relevant State might be breached.

Therefore I pose the question again – is it lawful for a data controller to release data in the Republic of Ireland to an agency of a foreign government if the release of that data may breach the laws of the Republic of Ireland?

Trusting you can assist with the further clarification.”

This time the DPC were unequivocal in their response saying:

“Thank you for this clarification. We would consider that the response we previously supplied is still applicable as we cannot identify any breach in Irish law by the provision of the information in question by the relevant data controllers.”

It seems therefore that (taken with previous responses from Irish government departments) it is perfectly lawful for Irish citizens to join foreign armies and for the Defence department of the country to which the applicant has applied to have his references validated from data sources in Ireland.

All in all it seems a curious interpretation of Section 312 (a) of the Defence Act 1954!

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights
human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.

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