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Question

268. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her efforts to co-operate and share intelligence, given the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6855/16]

269. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her discussions with European and international colleagues about the protection of Irish citizens from terrorism attacks. [7007/16]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 268 and 269 together.
The attacks in Brussels last month were wanton acts of terror that can never by justified and our thoughts are with all the victims. Following on last year's attacks in Paris in particular, they have highlighted once again the threat faced by open and democratic states from international terrorism.
The threat assessment is that while an international terror attack on Ireland is possible, it is not considered likely. However, there is no complacency where this threat is concerned. The level of threat is kept under constant review by An Garda Síochána and all appropriate measures will continue to be taken by the authorities here, in cooperation with their international partners, in responding to any identified threats and in seeking to prevent attacks. There is, unfortunately, a small number of people in Ireland whose activities are a cause for concern and the Garda Authorities will continue to monitor them and, where evidence is available of criminality, they will face the full rigours of the law.
Developing and enhancing intelligence-sharing internationally is essential in countering terrorism and An Garda Síochána has specialist units dedicated to this. The Garda Authorities will continue to work very closely with their EU and other international counterparts, including Europol and Interpol, in the exchange of intelligence in identifying and responding to this threat.
An Garda Síochána has developed considerable operational capacities in countering terrorism and in responding to critical incidents. In addition, the resources and skills of the Defence Forces are available in support where needed. I am committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána has the necessary resources to operate effectively in this environment. In this regard, as part of the major programme of investment in An Garda Síochána, there will be considerable investment in Garda information and communications technology, including connecting to the European Schengen Information System.
Increasing the effectiveness of information and intelligence-sharing and enhancing border security have been priority themes at recent meetings of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council and they will remain at the top of the agenda for the foreseeable future. A series of measures is being rolled out to build on and improve current operational co-operation and to develop the EU's legal framework for information-sharing, combating terrorism and controlling illegal firearms. Ireland is fully engaged in pursuing these developments.