When will the Irish government be held to account for unlawful activity during the pandemic?

For a number of months The Telegraph has been publishing a series of reports on the illegal and perhaps criminal behaviour of the UK government during lockdown.

Last week the paper released information showing a Counter-Disinformation Unit (CDU) was set up by ministers to tackle supposed domestic “threats” and was used to target those critical of lockdown and questioning the mass vaccination of children.

The BBC also took part in secretive meetings of a government policy forum to address the so-called disinformation.

Documents revealed under Freedom of Information (FoI) and data protection requests showed that the activities of prominent critics of the Government’s Covid policies were secretly monitored.

An artificial intelligence (AI) firm was used by the Government to scour social media sites. The company flagged discussions opposing vaccine passports.

One of a number of people whose online activity was monitored is Molly Kingsley a Cambridge-based former lawyer turned campaigner who set up a campaign to keep schools open during the pandemic.

Documents revealed that the material flagged to the CDU included articles published by The Telegraph.

One of these was a piece by Ms Kingsley published in February 2022, arguing that it was “indefensible” that children’s lives were still not back to normal when the rest of society was. She urged ministers to make a clear statement that children’s extracurricular activities should not be subject to additional curbs.

One of Ms Kingsley’s tweets from December 2020, in which she said it would be “unforgivable to close schools”, was also passed to the CDU.

A report in today’s Telegraph by Camilla Tominey says Kingsley is horrified to discover she was spied on by the Government for opposing school closures during the lockdown and is prepared to bring legal action to hold ministers to account.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” insists Kingsley. “We need absolute clarity on which ministers and officials knew and authorised this, exactly which agencies were involved and on what scale.

“Most importantly, we need to know the true impact. Did the collaboration between the Government and social media companies amount to actual censorship? And if so, how on earth was this allowed to happen in a supposedly liberal democracy?

If the only way to force disclosure is through litigation then absolutely I would consider that, to get the answers the public deserves.

I am very open to spending the rest of my life making the Government and all those involved in the decision-making around the pandemic more accountable to the people they serve.

I don’t believe this is a political framework that should be inherited by our children. Until we correct the failings of this period then we will be stuck in this doom loop of bad decision-making.”

Meanwhile in Ireland the mainstream media has been silent about similar activities conducted by the Irish state.

Thanks to an investigation by Gript Media we know that a media company called Kinzen was paid €8,600 a month by the Department of Health to combat Covid-19 ‘misinformation’ online.

Kinzen, co-founded by former RTÉ journalist Mark Little and Aine Kerr, the wife of Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin received a total of €78,000 from the Department of Health for nine months of work.

The HSE, in response to a query by TD Carol Nolan said that they had lost all records of the contract with the Department of Health and Kinzen as a result of a cyber-attack. Lockdown sceptic and co-founder of M-Compass Media Anna Kavanagh’s Facebook page was among the accounts monitored by Kinzen for the special unit set up during the pandemic within the HSE.

Nobody appears to be holding the Irish government to account for the decisions that they made during lockdown that has resulted in a huge increase in the death rate after the restrictions were lifted, possibly because of delayed diagnoses for cancers and other diseases.

The lockdown also had adverse reactions on children from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds.

A report this week in the Mail on Sunday by Valerie Hanley says almost 200,000 schoolchildren failed to return to classrooms and went missing for more than a month when schools finally reopened fully after the pandemic.

The figures were quietly released by Tusla at 5pm on Friday evening ahead of the June bank holiday weekend.

This comes months after the MoS first asked Tusla how many children have effectively fallen out of the education system since the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“We sought the figures after detailed data was released in the UK which confirmed that more than 140,000 pupils – described as ‘ghost children’ – were recorded as ‘severely absent’ or missing at least half of their classes during the pandemic,” Hanley reports.

She continues: “Education sources said similar trends are likely here, meaning that between 10,000 and 14,000 pupils may have dropped out of Irish schools since the pandemic, based on a per capita equivalent.

However, the figures published by Tusla late on Friday are far too limited to accurately gauge the extent of the problem here.”

She says Tusla is unable to shed light on the biggest single factor for why the children went missing, merely saying it was for ‘unexplained reasons’.

There is an urgent need for an inquiry into the unlawful behaviour of the Irish government during lockdown so that the removal of our rights under the constitution will never again be repeated.

Anna Kavanagh