I thank Deputy Crawford for allowing me to speak first. A staff member of the New York Blood Centre was in public with a laptop containing the records of donors to the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, IBTS. That person was mugged, his laptop taken and all the records have disappeared. The manner in which these things happened is weird and wonderful. There is a touch of James Bond about this but one has to ask why the disc was encrypted and put on a laptop. The purpose of a laptop is ease of transport for use in a variety of areas. Why was the laptop brought into the public domain in New York and what actually happened? It occurred, as I understand it, on 23 October 2007 but seems to have been kept quiet until the new year. Why was this information only recently made public?
Tens of thousands of Irish citizens gave blood in good faith, in the expectation that all the information they supplied, personal details of their names, addresses, dates of birth and blood types, would have been confidential and would not enter the public domain in any way. The people whose confidential information was lost in that mugging received a letter from the IBTS, explaining in a technical fashion the method of encryption, the process that occurred and why the IBTS set up an agreement with the New York Blood Centre, but it does not explain why the information was on a laptop. Why was it not sent in a more confidential fashion? Why was it sent at all? The IBTS said it wanted to provide the best data control system available and therefore it employed the services of the New York Blood Centre. Why did it not bring an expert to Ireland? It beggars belief that anybody from the IBTS in his or her right mind would take a disc with all that information, transfer it to a laptop, put it surreptitiously in his or her luggage and carry it around the streets of New York where he or she was mugged. In Britain recently a large volume of confidential information that had been stored also got into the public domain. We do not know what will happen to that.
The IBTS says the information was securely encrypted and that it would be impossible to break the code. It may be impossible to break it but it is not impossible to find it. Where was the code? Was there a password, was it in somebody's head or written down in any way? We do not know the answers to those questions or what might happen to that information in the future.
Will the Minister of State tell us in the first instance why it took so long for the IBTS to make this common knowledge and to write to the people concerned? The mugging took place on 23 October 2007 but the letters were not sent out until 22 February 2008. Will the Minister of State give us the up-to-date information on what has happened so far in respect of the investigation and whether there is any prospect of retrieving the information?