ENVIRONMENT minister John Gormley has been criticised for banning the publication of the names and addresses of 'litter louts' in newspapers.
The department of environment, heritage and local government has contacted every local authority telling them the policy would be illegal, despite perceptions that such a deterrent could encourage people to clean up their acts.
While it is unclear exactly how many councils planned to adopt the move – which would include a 'name and shame' policy on websites and in local media – they have now been told to dump the idea.
Referring to previous such actions, county managers were told the publication of names and addresses in newspapers – referring to advertising paid for by authorities as opposed to local court reports – would be in breach of data protection legislation. (The names and addresses of people convicted in court can legally be made public.)
Specifically, such a policy would breach section 2A of the Data Protection (Amendment) Act 2003.
"It is further recommended that any such material currently on local authorities' websites should be removed immediately and that no further publication should take place," the letter stated.
The direction has drawn criticism from supporters of the proposal.
Fine Gael councillor Kieran Dennison, whose proposal for such a move was adopted in Fingal, north Dublin, rounded on Gormley.
"This is an example of how silly government regulation has become in Ireland," he said. "While the local newspapers can name and shame when reporting court proceedings, the council cannot publish the same details on an adjoining page or even on its website. Ireland has changed from a 'can do' country to become a 'can't do' land."