Open Letter to Michael McDowell re: use of data in Seanad campaign

Dear Michael,

I had supplied my email address to Democracy Matters in order to be kept informed on matters pertinent to its ongoing campaign to retain and reform Seanad Éireann. I did not sign up to participate in or endorse your personal campaign to be elected to the Seanad.

That broader campaign to retain and reform the Seanad and your own personal campaign are not one and the same thing.

I have not asked that my contact details be deleted from Democracy Matters but rather why you are using Democracy Matters resources for your own supposedly independent campaign. For you to say that if I do not wish to be informed about your campaign for the Seanad that I am deemed to be no longer supportive of the retention and reform of the Seanad and would be deleted shows a conflation of the personal with Democracy Matters that is troubling.

This behaviour mirrors much of what is termed astro turfing in the US. It is a well stage managed campaign but one that now appears to be built on a false premise. Is Democracy Matters even still functionally in existence? The Website appears to be defunct http://www.democracymatters.ie/ , the email I sent it has bounced, there have been no recent public events or emails about same and the twitter account is only retweeting the comments of others.

I along with many hundreds of others campaigned to retain the Seanad and went door to door doing so, but I don’t recall any communication with those people before your candidacy was announced. Unlike you I don’t have a vote for the Seanad election, but that means I, like the millions of others disenfranchised, have some skin in the skin when it comes to Seanad reform. Why was there no communication to those doing the legwork when the prospect of an open Seanad seat became visible? Was there a convention, were people invited to participate in the process of selecting a candidate, was there a hustings, was Democracy Matters involved in that at all? If not then how are you in a position to use its resources to support your campaign?

It is clear now that Democracy Matters was a closed shop, open to all when it suited, to lend weight to events/meetings and to drop leaflets and canvass, but involving people on an invitation only basis to the inner circle when it came to dividing up the spoils. Hereditary and the passing on of Oireachtas seats within families is one of the worst aspects of Irish politics but it is little better when an Oireachtas seat is passed on from one insider to another via some Romanesque nepotism with a public laying on of hands.

This lax attitude to the separation of information you happen to have access to in one role from its use for the benefit of another role you are pursuing could almost be understood in some neophyte in their 20s stumbling into a national election fresh from a SU hustings. However in an former AG and Minister for Justice who lead the way on the introduction of extensive data retention laws that have been since found to be against EU law it is inexcusable.

That your instinct is to see no difference between this organisation and yourself personally and your access to and use of data provided to it is unnerving. Especially since you in your role as Minister for Justice introduced data retention laws that subsequently lead on to the European Data Retention Directive of 2006. Such a combination of a casual attitude to the use of data and the support of imposition of the state in the retention of data for long periods begs the question of where is the liberalism in this Seanad Race, where will be the defence of the individual against larger entities be they state. corporate or campaigning organisations such as Democracy Matters?

Yours sincerely,
Daniel Sullivan

Dear Daniel

I refer to your recent email.

I wrote to you on the understanding that you, like many others, had supplied your email address to Democracy Matters in order to be kept informed on matters pertinent to its ongoing campaign to retain and reform Seanad Éireann.

My email to you was written to convey to you the fact that Senator Feargal Quinn was not standing for election on this occasion and that he had invited me, as another of the co-founders of Democracy Matters, to contest the Seanad election to ensure that the Seanad reform programme of Democracy Matters would continue to be represented in the Oireachtas, and to seek your support in that endeavour.

If I am mistaken in believing that you supplied your email address for the purpose of being kept informed about matters concerned with the ongoing aims of the Democracy Matters campaign or if you no longer wish to receive any emails on such matters, I will of course delete your email address from any further circulation of information relating to the aims of Democracy Matters.

Yours sincerely,

Michael McDowell

Dear Michael,

I would appreciated it if you could you enlighten me as to how you come have this email address?

Is it from the Democracy Matters mailing list collected for the campaign to retain the Seanad?

If so then both your use of it for your own election campaign and the fact that Democracy Matters have made it available to you are matters of serious concern. I would appreciated a response on this issues as early as possible.

regards Daniel Sullivan

Dear friend,

In 2013, you and I and hundreds of others from across Irish society – such as Noel Whelan, Senator Katherine Zappone, Senator Joe O’Toole, and Senator Feargal Quinn – came together and campaigned to defeat the proposed abolition of Seanad Eireann, on the promise and in the belief that it could be reformed into a meaningful and effective organ of Irish democracy. Democracy Matters was singularly responsible for the retention of the Seanad and the campaign is one in which I am still proud to have been involved.

Regrettably, and despite efforts both from within and from outside the Seanad, there has been little progress or reform since. The Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform, chaired by my friend Maurice Manning, was warmly welcomed but now appears consigned to gather dust.

In recent months, Senator Quinn informed me of his decision not to seek re-election to the Seanad on the NUI Panel in 2016, and invited me to run in his place. I have accepted his invitation, with the aim of being elected to the Seanad to lead a movement for reform from within the Oireachtas.

If you, or anyone you know, is a registered NUI graduate, I would be honoured and grateful for a Number 1 vote in the forthcoming election.

The voting process is quite straightforward but you need to be aware of it in order to play your part. Shortly after March 21st, you will receive by registered post:

A ballot paper
A declaration of identity form
Two envelopes
Ballot papers must reach NUI by 11am on April 26th.

The identity form must be signed by the voter and by a witness and returned with the ballot paper. If you are not at home when the ballot paper arrives, the postman will leave a docket informing you that the documents can be collected from the Post Office. If these are uncollected after three days, the envelope will be returned to NUI. On request to the NUI, the ballot paper will be re-sent to you – please email elections@nui.ie.

I enclose a PDF of my campaign leaflet which sets out my priorities if elected to the NUI Panel. If you have any queries or would like to assist us, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

Michael McDowell

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