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Update: Proposal to ban photographs of Gardaí undertaking their duties 'begs all sorts of questions'

Update - 6.51pm: The Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said that the Justice Minister's comments about a ban on photographing Gardaí "begs all sorts of questions".

Charlie Flanagan has said he is concerned about Gardaí who have mobile phones thrust in their faces while they are going about their policing duties.

It comes after a photo of a garda at a housing protest was posted online alongside threatening comments.

Liam Herrick from the ICCL has said, even though the Minister has rolled back on his original comments, it is still concerning.

Mr Herrick said: "He's now saying he wasn't talking about professional press photographers, and this particular group might be treated differently, but that begs all sorts of questions, too.

"Does it apply to freelance journalists?

[quote]"What we need to understand here is that a safeguard for protests from the police point of view is body cameras, but also for people involved in protests that filming and recording protests itself can be a safeguard for them."[/quote]

[h2]Earlier: Justice Minister considers law banning photographs of Gardaí while undertaking their duties[/h2]

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has said that he is prepared to look at a proposal to make it illegal to photograph Gardaí going about their normal duties.

The Minister was asked by the Garda Representative Association (GRA) to look at the proposal after one of its members was reportedly photographed and threatened online while doing his job.

The Minister said: “I believe transparency is vitally important; I am on record as favouring Gardaí wearing body cameras.

“I also greatly value the role of the media in providing objective reporting.

[quote]"However, I am concerned about the public order dimension of Gardaí having multiple mobile phones thrust into their faces as they try to go about their policing duties."[/quote]

“In my experience press photographers are professional in how they undertake their duties, they do not impede the Gardaí going about their work.

“This is regrettably not always the case where public order issues arise. The uploading of images of Gardaí undertaking their duties on social media and consequent threats and intimidation is unacceptable to me and that is why I am concerned.”

The Minister noted that the welfare and health of officers was one of the issues to be addressed in the report of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, which will be published tomorrow.

[h2]Earlier: Alan Kelly calls for garda unit to monitor social media[/h2]

There needs to be a special garda unit dedicated to monitoring social media, according to the Labour Party.

Alan Kelly made the call after a member of the gardaí was reportedly photographed and threatened online while doing his job.

Gardaí are investigating reports that a garda who policed a housing protest last week was threatened after he was named and pictured on social media.

Labour TD Alan Kelly says there needs to be a response from the force.

"There should be a unit which is basically monitoring social media, helping the gardaí who are doing their jobs to be protected on social media and going after people who behave in absolutely heinous behaviour whereby they're threatening gardaí or their families," Mr Kelly said.

The party also said that all gardaí should have body cameras to help protect themselves.

He said: "I think gardaí should have body cameras, I think gardaí who have specific roles who are on the streets should have body cameras to protect themselves to have their version of events.

"All patrol cars should have cameras front and back and side to show what is going on and to protect themselves.

"I think practical measures like that is what gardaí really want."

The Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has suggested he would be supportive of the idea of making it illegal to photograph gardaí carrying out their work.

He says attitudes to online posts need to change.

"I'm very concerned actually because I believe that some people are of the view that online engagement is in some way outside the law. That has to change," said Minister Flanagan.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, however, disagrees with banning the photographing of members of the force.

"In a free society people have an absolute entitlement to take pictures of any public servant," said Mr Howlin.

[quote]I think we have to protect public servants in the course of their duty. The notion that normal civil liberties would be curtailed like that would be something the Labour party would not support.[/quote]

The garda investigation into the incident is ongoing.