Monday, 26 April 2021
EU Regulations (Europol): Motion
I welcome the Minister of State to the House for this small but vital motion. Any blow against organised crime is welcome. Large-scale organised crime is not something that happens far away removed from the lives of ordinary people, it happens here and victimises people in a direct and painful way. The threat of terrorism is also something that must be answered. We are no strangers to terrorism on this island. We have seen at first hand the ugliness and devastation it brings about. The regulation we seek to opt into today mentions the stabbings outside the Charlie Hebdooffice in Paris last September, the senseless shooting of four people in Vienna in November and the disgusting, barbaric beheading of a school teacher in October. All of this happened last year alone in Europe. Something has gone seriously wrong and something must be done.
This proposal is a step in the right direction. Europol was set up to support and strengthen action by competent authorities, member states and their mutual co-operation in preventing and combating organised crime, terrorism and other forms of serious crime. Let us get all the help we can tackling these issues in our country and lend whatever hand we can to our European neighbours to help them do the same. I have spoken many times in the House on how the law needs to be updated to deal with the emerging technologies and practices of the time. The Commission's proposal puts this well when it notes that "Europeans today face a security landscape in flux", the criminals exploit the advantages that the digital transformation brings about. These threats stretch across borders and there is no reason the law should not be able to pursue them when they do so. One caveat to my welcome for the motion might be around data. Whenever we talk about individuals' personal data we must always ask who is watching the watchers. High-profile abuses of data hoarding and processing are never far from the front pages. We be sure not to open the door to future potential abuse with this proposal. What checks and balances will there be to prevent one or more people gathering and designating me as a suspect terrorist, who could then legally pull anything and everything about me for whatever purpose they see fit? Welcome as these efforts are to tackle crime and terrorism, we must always be aware of the right to privacy everyone enjoys and must protect this right. If those protections are in place and they work, then this is a motion that I am happy to support.
Crime is always one step ahead of the solution, particularly in data crime. I have a friend who is extremely security conscious. When I meet him, the first thing he asks me to do is to put my mobile phone in the car and then come and have coffee with him. He is acutely aware that someone is always listening and when they are, it is not for the good of our health.We need to support our European colleagues. We need the free transfer of information across the European Union and beyond. We need to be able to track and trace those who are living abroad and having crimes committed in their names in this country. We also need to be able to track and trace those in this country who are perpetrating crimes elsewhere in the world. We see how mobile and global criminals are now. Some of them are big as any multinational one would care to mention. This is a vital aspect of opting in on Ireland's part. It is a maturing of Ireland as it accepts its place on the platform with everybody else in order to tackle crime. I commend the Minister of State on bringing this motion, which I will be supporting, to the House.