Northern Ireland's crisis need more democracy not less

Trevor Smith
9 January 2010

Trevor Smith is the Liberal Democrat party spokesperson for Northern Ireland in the House of Lords. He has sent us this  comment on Tom Griffin's recent post - given his experience the signal he is sending deserves a full post - Anthony Barnett 

Tom Griffin's analysis is spot on. The current crisis can't be exaggerated. The impasse over transferring Police/Justice to the Northern Ireland Executive is at the root of the problem. The Robinsons' troubles are more a symptom than a cause - they have just brought things to a head. Shortcomings on the part of legislators need to be remedied by more democracy, not a retreat from it. That's why the transfer is vital. The problem is that a Brown government struggling with its own survival will not take the necessary steps to implement the transfer, while an incoming Tory administration may well be disinclined to do anything positive, particularly if a small parliamentary majority makes it reliant on Unionist support in the Commons. Northern Ireland political leaders must now move swiftly to agree the transfer in the immediate future.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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