Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 April 2021

European Union Regulation: Motion


1:35 pm

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent) | Oireachtas source

We are now firmly living in an age of digital advancement. The change this is bringing to our lives is evident in every sector, community and home. Digitisation and technology development are greatly improving many aspects of our social, economic and cultural lives. However, they are also creating a national vulnerability that Ireland cannot manage on its own. This is true of every other European country too. Therefore, our defence to cybercrime lies in a pan-European cybersecurity response.

What was once deemed fanciful thinking from the pages of Marvel comics and science fiction films is today a present reality. The development of artificial intelligence and cyber intelligence are accelerating all the time. Our national challenge is to be enabled by developing technology rather than emasculated by it. As with all threat scenarios, we must quantify the risk and be ready to implement appropriate responses. This requires insightful intelligence, expertise and proactive planning of resources to build a co-ordinated response. Given our resource platforms, we are best served by integrating fully with the European response to cybercrime and terrorism security.

The reality of Brexit has firmly positioned Ireland as a fully signed up member of the European project. That reality exposes the vulnerability of Ireland to international crime and terrorism opportunities. These traits are not only national but transnational. Where digital technology is being utilised, these traits are not bounded by borders. Cybercrime is now a well established fact in Ireland. Many companies have faced hacking and ransomware attacks as well as fraudulent invoicing that involves using forged signatures and trademarks. This is something I have seen personally with regard to a company in Waterford. In that case, had it not been for the actions of the Garda fraud office and the ability of the officers to liaise with European cybercrime colleagues, a significant financial loss on an international financial transfer would have occurred. That would have cost enterprise and jobs.

In recent weeks, there has been much discussion in the media regarding the privilege and protection of personal data and how they are stored and protected. In the modern digital age of cybercrime, data are the new currency to be traded and mined to deliver fraudulent opportunity. Our national law enforcement capability cannot react fully to the transnational security challenge that faces the EU bloc through cybercrime, organised criminal activity and terrorism opportunity. Therefore, we need to integrate our crime detection and response capability with those of other European countries to protect our country from malevolent large-scale crime and terrorist syndicates that target our shores daily. If people think this statement is an exaggeration, I ask them to ponder the volume of illegal drugs that pass through this country every year in response to domestic and European demand. We might also consider the human trafficking that has taken place in this country or that has been assisted by Irish individuals. This has included the exploitation of manual labourers and sex workers.

This legislation seeks to further cement Europol as the centrepiece for European law enforcement co-operation. It proposes to give additional powers to handle large data sets to assist Ireland's crime prevention service, which has neither the capability nor the resources to fully analyse such data. The proposed legislation seeks to strengthen our individual and pan-European responses to counter criminal activity in communications, banking and transport services. These are among the largest sectors that facilitate international crime and terrorism. This new legislation will aid additional co-operation in policing and judicial matters. It will also allow the increased sharing of data and information of third country nationals and citizens on the Schengen information system, which is a European database used by Europol. This information may be used in future prosecutions taken with Europol support.

The Regional Group supports this proposed legislation. We believe our future lies in Europe and through integrating with European cybercrime and terrorist responses.


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