Thursday, 29 April 2021
European Union Regulation: Motion
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister, Deputy McEntee, on the birth of her baby boy this morning. I wish them all the best for the future. Having children is one of the greatest adventures of life. The Minister, Deputy McEntee, embarks on a new adventure today.
Sinn Féin supports the motion. The role of Europol in cross-border policing has developed over many years. It is vital to ensure we keep people safe everywhere. The world is now a much smaller place, as is Europe. When we exit the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, we will, hopefully, be able to travel freely again. That is a vital part of what we need to be able to do in Europe. Freedom of movement, freedom of capital and so on, which are at the core of the Europe Union, open up opportunity for criminal gangs and serious crime on a cross-border basis. This has to be addressed. I recognise that much of the crime which Europol is engaged in and investigating is the serious crime of drug trafficking, as well as people trafficking and other crimes of that nature which need to be dealt with appropriately. An Garda Síochána has a role to play here and it is playing that role.
I recently dealt with a case where a person had two children taken out of this country to another country. It is difficult to deal with law enforcement agencies in one's own country, but dealing with them in several countries at the same time is very stressful for families or individuals. Greater co-operation and integration between security forces, particularly police forces across member states, is vital in that regard. Europol is a key part of that.
The main point of this particular motion is to ensure there is co-operation with private parties as set out in the Minister of State's speech, which includes communications and online companies. I am interested to know if that includes private security firms, which can often be unregulated. We have had issues with them in this country, but in many other countries, they are very unregulated. We need to focus on how that is operating in other countries as well. We are dealing with this particular motion in an Irish context but it also has a reach into every other country in Europe, where it has to deal with variants of regulation in the different sectors within those countries and also different legal regimes and applications of the law within those countries. The legal systems in Ireland and in Britain are different to those in most countries in Europe. That is an issue of which we need to be conscious and aware.
Many people have had reason to deal with problems at an international level. It can sometimes be very difficult for people to deal with the forces of law and order in other countries at arm's length. There is, perhaps, a role here for An Garda Síochána to link up with people in this country who are trying to deal with such issues and to assist them in their dealings with law enforcement agencies in other states.
Europol has expanded and developed its technology and its way of doing things. As we know, it is based in The Hague and it has over 1,000 employees, which number will probably grow into the future. We are in a time when, apart from a global virus pandemic, we have a global crime pandemic. I mentioned the issue of people trafficking. Europe needs to address the issue of criminal gangs bringing people into many countries in Europe, including Ireland, where many of them are abused in the sex trade, which is not a trade but the abuse of human beings. This can only be dealt with at an international level. There needs to be a real focus on address of that crime. The issues of data and analysis of large-scale data are also addressed in the motion. It is clear to all that we need to have in place the resources to deal with international crime and the large, and often hidden, means by which they can operate.
I commend the Government on bringing forward the motion. The deadline in terms of opt-in is fast approaching. I suggest that in future we should try to deal with these matters more promptly than close to deadlines. I am sure the Minister of State would agree. As I said, Sinn Féin supports the motion and we hope it progresses through the Houses with great speed.