The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, TD, announced that the Europol Bill 2012 has, today, been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to implement into Irish law the EU Council Decision of 6 April 2009 establishing the European Police Office (Europol). That Decision replaces the Europol Convention under which Europol was originally established and which was given effect in the State by the Europol Act 1997. While incorporating the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols, the Council Decision also introduces some new features to Europol.

Organised crime was originally the sole focus of Europol’s activities. However, the Council Decision removes the requirement that an organised criminal structure must be involved before Europol can act. It will be sufficient for the crime concerned to involve a serious offence affecting two or more Member States. The offences for which Europol is now competent are listed in the Annex to the Council Decision and include drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, murder and kidnapping.

Europol cooperates with member states through national units which each state must establish. The national unit in Ireland is a unit within the Garda Síochána. Europol supports Member States and their law enforcement authorities through the exchange and analysis of criminal intelligence. Europol identifies a crime priority which is assigned a team of analysts. Ireland would contribute regularly to such teams where links are identified between the State and the particular area of crime. The information exchanged has assisted in identifying links between international organised crime groups operating in Ireland and in other jurisdictions.

In terms of operations, in 2011 Europol assisted Ireland in tackling an organised crime gang operating in France which were arranging illegal immigration into Ireland. More recently, An Garda Síochána took part in a joint operation with the PSNI targeting prostitution on the island of Ireland. Europol assisted this operation through providing analysts who worked alongside the Garda and PSNI personnel.

In announcing the passage of the legislation, the Minister stated "Every country suffers the negative effects of international crime. Combating such crime requires a coordinated response between the States affected. The importance of cooperation, such as that between the State and Europol cannot be underestimated in the fight against cross border crime. Europol has, since 1995, proven its effectiveness in supporting national law enforcement authorities in their efforts to combat crime.

I am pleased that the Council Decision to which this Bill gives effect has recognised Europol’s successes by extending the forms of crime in which it can now be involved. Through the Europol National Unit in An Garda Síochána, I look forward to continued cooperation between the State and Europol and the further successful investigation of cross border crime."

18 December 2012