Thursday, 29 April 2021
European Union Regulation: Motion
Whenever we see words such as "Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) 2016/794" on the Order Paper, we wonder what exactly we will be discussing. In this instance, we are dealing with a very important issue and a proposal I am happy to support. Ireland has the power to opt in and out of regulations on the matters to which the motion relates, mainly because of our relationship with the United Kingdom in the past. As members of the European Union together for more than 40 years, we mirrored the UK's opt-in-opt-out view on many justice-related matters. My first question to the Minister of State relates to how we might position ourselves into the future in the light of the new status of the UK as a third country. How will we maintain our links with the UK in terms of security and policing, which are extremely important, and how will the UK link into the EU, not only bilaterally with Ireland but also with the other member states?
A related issue is the question of how we are going to proceed into the future in terms of our involvement with justice issues as they arise. The importance of police co-operation on an international scale has never been more real. We have seen Irish criminal gangs become entirely internationalised, with some of them based in the Netherlands or Spain. Feuds that originate in this jurisdiction have had impacts in other jurisdictions, not only across the EU but beyond. There is no doubt in the world that we need to have the capacity to co-operate not only on a pan-European level, through Europol, but even beyond Europe. Criminal investigation is becoming more demanding and requires additional resources. Issues like data analysis, as the Minister of State referenced, forensic accounting and others require a degree of specialisation that we have only really begun in recent years to apply to policing in this country. We need not only trained members of the Garda, who go through a process of training in Templemore before progressing through the ranks, but also a range of specialist supports.
The Minister of State indicated that these proposals will strengthen with the EPPO. This is an issue we raised in a previous debate. At the time, we were not fully engaged with that office, with the reason cited being that we are a common law jurisdiction and this would prevent difficulties for our full participation. I am interested to know, if the Minister of State can give an update, whether we are more advanced in this regard than we were the last time he spoke to the House about it.
In the debate in the Upper House, the Minister of State dealt with the issue of co-operation between Europol and private parties. He has given a little more elaboration in that regard today. He said this issue would have significant implications for An Garda Síochána because of the presence here of so many European headquarters of Internet and social media providers. He talked in the other House about An Garda Síochána being able to influence any outcomes in this regard. Will he comment on how that will be brought about? He indicated that the proposed amendments would enable Europol to support law enforcement in its interactions regarding, for example, the removal of online terrorist content. How will that happen from a procedural point of view?
I do not expect the Minister of State will have time, in this very short debate, to deal with all the issues I and other Members raise. Will he come back to us on the points he does not have time to deal with in his closing remarks? Mar fhocal scoir, we support these proposals for greater co-operation between police forces as an absolutely essential adjunct to ensuring that criminality can be dealt with adequately. Criminal activity is now entirely internationalised, as highlighted by other speakers in referring to specific issues such as people trafficking. Our policing response, therefore, must be robust, internationalised and properly resourced.