PUBLIC representatives are warning that strict regulations on information and privacy are making it 'increasingly difficult' to do their jobs.
Members of Cork City Council hit out at new email policies which are being introduced at City Hall due to GDPR, the Europe-wide regulations on information sharing and privacy which came into effect in May.
Under the new rules, information can only be secured and stored for specific purposes and should not be kept on file indefinitely.
At a meeting of the party whips last week, councillors were told that due to GDPR, City Council staff would only be able to communicate with members via City Council email addresses and not private email addresses.
The move came in for severe criticism at City Hall last night, with elected members arguing that it puts potentially sensitive information under threat.
Sinn Fein's Chris O'Leary said he uses a non-City Council email address to communicate with constituents on a wide range of issues, including housing and financial concerns.
Conducting this business through a City Council email address would leave it potentially open to Freedom of Information requests, he said.
"I am an elected representative - elected by people, not the Council," he said.
"I have concerns about data and privacy in the council email account. It could be subject to FOI. We all have sensitive information in our emails.
"I have 22 emails today from constituents - they are asking me to represent them. They are giving me consent - not the council - to handle this data."
Cllr John Buttimer said that GDPR is the latest in a long line of regulations that are making the role of a public representative more challenging.
"Between GDPR, SIPO and the Lobbying Act, it is becoming increasingly difficult to act in any capacity," he said.
"It is impractical to work under these constraints. Technically, a constituent contacting me should be registered as a lobbyist - it makes no sense."
Fianna Fail councillor Terry Shannon said that GDPR is being used as a catch-all term to keep information private.
"It is an absolute disgrace - we are being told that under data protection, things can't be done.
It is not good enough, it is not practical," he said.