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IRELAND - Data Protection and GDPR Review

The history of data protection in Ireland reflects the broader changes in European and international data protection law, and the country has played a key role in shaping these regulations. Below is a timeline highlighting the major developments in Ireland's data protection history:

  1. Pre-1980s: Before the emergence of specific data protection laws, information privacy was largely unregulated. The proliferation of computers and digital data in the 1960s and 1970s led to growing concerns over privacy.

  2. 1981: Council of Europe Convention 108: Ireland signed the Council of Europe's Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. This was one of the first international legal instruments to deal with privacy and data protection.

  3. 1988: Data Protection Act: Ireland's first piece of legislation specifically aimed at data protection was passed in 1988. This act gave individuals rights concerning their personal data and placed obligations on those who collect and control such data.

  4. 1995: EU Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC): Ireland, as a member of the European Union, was obliged to implement the EU Data Protection Directive, which aimed to harmonize data protection laws across the EU member states. This led to the amendment of the Data Protection Act in Ireland.

  5. 2003: Establishment of the Data Protection Commissioner: The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner was established to oversee the enforcement of data protection laws in Ireland. The role of the commissioner has been vital in ensuring compliance with Irish and European regulations.

  6. 2007-2011: Further Amendments and Expansion: During this period, there were further amendments to the Data Protection Act to bring it in line with emerging technologies and international standards.

  7. 2018: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): GDPR came into effect on May 25, 2018, replacing the Data Protection Directive. As an EU regulation, it had direct effect in Ireland, and the country played an essential role in its development. GDPR imposed stricter rules on data processing and increased individuals' rights.

  8. 2018: Data Protection Act 2018: Ireland's national legislation, the Data Protection Act 2018, was enacted to give further effect to GDPR and to replace the previous Data Protection Acts. This act has provisions related to the functions of the Data Protection Commission (the successor to the Data Protection Commissioner) and special categories of data.

  9. Ongoing Developments: Since the implementation of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, Ireland has remained an essential player in data protection in Europe, particularly due to the presence of major tech companies' European headquarters in the country. The Data Protection Commission continues to be actively involved in enforcing the regulation, dealing with cross-border cases, and working with other European data protection authorities.

Ireland's data protection landscape is emblematic of the ongoing global efforts to balance the technological advancements and the privacy rights of individuals. The country's laws and regulatory bodies have adapted to the changing landscape, reflecting the global trend toward increased awareness and regulation of privacy and data protection.

The GDPR is an EU regulation that took effect on May 25, 2018. Ireland, being a member of the EU, adheres to the GDPR, and its principles are enshrined in the Data Protection Act 2018. This guide will help you understand the essential elements of GDPR and how they are applied in Ireland.

Key Principles of GDPR

Under GDPR, data protection is built around several key principles:

  • Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency: Processing of personal data must be lawful, fair, and transparent to the data subject.

  • Purpose Limitation: Data must be collected for explicit and legitimate purposes and not processed in a manner incompatible with those purposes.

  • Data Minimization: Only the necessary data that is relevant to the purposes should be processed.

  • Accuracy: Personal data should be accurate and up-to-date.

  • Storage Limitation: Personal data should not be kept longer than necessary for the intended purposes.

  • Integrity and Confidentiality: Appropriate security measures must be implemented to protect personal data.

Rights of the Data Subject in Ireland

  • Right to Access: Individuals have the right to request access to their personal data.

  • Right to Rectification: Individuals can request the correction of inaccurate or incomplete data.

  • Right to Erasure (‘Right to Be Forgotten’): In certain circumstances, individuals can request the deletion of their personal data.

  • Right to Restriction of Processing: Individuals may request that the processing of their personal data be restricted.

  • Right to Data Portability: Allows individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data across different services.

  • Right to Object: Individuals have the right to object to the processing of their personal data in certain circumstances.

Responsibilities of Data Controllers and Processors

  • Compliance with Principles: Data controllers and processors must comply with the GDPR principles.

  • Privacy by Design and Default: Implementing data protection at the earliest stages of product or process design.

  • Record Keeping: Maintaining records of data processing activities.

  • Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA): Assessing the impact of processing activities that may pose high risks to individuals' rights and freedoms.

  • Data Breach Notification: Reporting data breaches to the Data Protection Commission (DPC) and the affected individuals without undue delay.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC)

  • Role and Functions: The DPC is responsible for supervising and enforcing data protection laws in Ireland. It provides guidance, handles complaints, and can impose fines for violations.

  • Complaint Handling: Individuals can lodge complaints with the DPC if they believe their rights have been violated.

  • Cross-Border Cases: The DPC plays a vital role in cross-border data protection issues within the EU, especially involving multinational corporations.


Data protection under GDPR in Ireland involves a complex framework of rights, responsibilities, and regulatory oversight. Compliance is mandatory for any organization processing personal data within the jurisdiction, and failure to comply can result in significant penalties.

Businesses and individuals should seek legal advice and refer to guidance provided by the DPC to ensure full compliance with GDPR as applied in Ireland. The evolving nature of data protection law also requires constant monitoring of legal developments and regulatory guidance.


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