Case Summary: Digital Rights Ireland Ltd – v – Minister for Communication & Ors [2010] IEHC 221


Republic of Ireland

Where a case raised important constitutional matters around retention of data which affected the public and it was unlikely that an individual could afford to take such a case, the Court granted standing to a non-governmental organisation who was a sincere and serious litigant.

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The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants wrongfully exercised control over data, having illegally processed and stored data relating to the Plaintiff, its members and other mobile phone users in breach of their rights to privacy, marital and family life, travel and communication among others. The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff lacked standing to take the case, on the grounds that they were effectively asserting the rights of third parties and there were many potential litigants to assert the rights claimed.


The High Court granted the Plaintiff standing in respect of the claims regarding rights to privacy and communication.


The Plaintiff was "a sincere and serious litigant" who raised important constitutional issues and sought to protect the public good. The Court had a duty to uphold the Constitution and scrutinise suspect actions. Given the costs associated with this kind of legal challenge, it was unlikely that any one mobile phone user would bring the case. The fact that the Irish Human Rights Commission had been joined as amicus curiae supported the argument that this case raised matters of fundamental public importance.

Points of Note

McKechnie J upheld and applied the reasoning of Gilligan J in Irish Penal Reform Trust Limited & Ors -v- the Governor of Mountjoy Prison & Ors [2005] IEHC 305, namely that standing rules can be relaxed where a body is acting in good faith and has a defined interest in the matter. He concluded that a Plaintiff may obtain standing where they had a good faith concern in the matter or the rights asserted were of general importance to society as a whole.

The Court's approach is notable for its purposive nature, emphasising that the Court has a duty to prevent the unconstitutional abuse of power and that permitting standing to the Plaintiff was an efficient way to hear the important Constitutional issues raised. The fact that the matters raised affected almost all the public was relevant.

Sustaining Partners