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Honours list data breach 'worrying', says Northern Ireland woman whose address was revealed



Women’s Aid worker Sonya McMullan

Women’s Aid worker Sonya McMullan

Kevin Cooper

Sir Iain Duncan Smith

Sir Iain Duncan Smith

Lord Kerslake

Lord Kerslake

Women’s Aid worker Sonya McMullan

A Northern Ireland woman whose address was inadvertently made public by the Cabinet Office during the New Year Honours announcement has described the data breach as "worrying".

Women's Aid worker Sonya McMullan was awarded a British Empire Medal in recognition of her services to victims of domestic and sexual abuse here.

She was one of more than a thousand people whose private data was accidentally made public for a short period.

"For someone like myself in direct frontline services, it would be very worrying if those details could be shared," Ms McMullan said.

"I think for the celebrities and other people involved, who are much more important than myself, it certainly is worrying," she added.

The list also included senior diplomats, counter-terror police and figures from the military.

The PSNI confirmed it is "working closely with the relevant government departments to determine what action, if any, needs to be taken".

Wilma Erskine, the former general manager of Royal Portrush Golf Club and a pivotal figure in securing the hugely successful Open Championship for Northern Ireland in July, was also among the recipients who had their personal details published online. Ms Erskine confirmed on Sunday that she has since received an apology from officials.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was knighted in the latest honours list, described the alleged data breach as a "complete disaster".

He said there were "very serious questions" to be asked about how the home addresses of celebrities, military figures and elderly people named in the New Year Honours list came to be inadvertently posted online.

There have also been calls for an inquiry into the leak, which is being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office.

The Cabinet Office apologised and said it was contacting those affected after details relating to the vast majority of the 1,097 recipients could be viewed online from 11pm on Friday, shortly after news of their honours went public. The details were removed around an hour after the disclosure.

Sir Iain said: "Ministers need to be asking some very serious questions of those involved about how this was allowed to happen and why no final checks were carried out before the document was published.

"Everybody knows virtually everything about me.

"It's much more concerning for private citizens, like those who have been involved in policing or counter-terrorism or other such sensitive cases, to have their addresses published."

Lord Kerslake, who was head of the Civil Service between 2012 and 2014, said an "urgent investigation" was needed into the matter.

The Cabinet Office said: "The information was removed as soon as possible.

"We apologise to all those affected.

"We are looking into how this happened."

Belfast Telegraph