Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the need for better security, co-operation and sharing of intelligence across the European Union; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41151/15]
308. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if there is a split at European Union Council level regarding how to deal with the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41153/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I propose to take Questions Nos. 307 and 308 together.
Taking measures to combat terrorism is a shared priority for the Member States of the European Union and discussion on these issues have been at the top of the agenda at my regular meetings with my EU counterparts. The Justice and Home Affairs Council held an emergency meeting in the week following the appalling attacks in Paris on 13 November and Ministers were at one in seeking an appropriate and unified response to those attacks, including all reasonable measures to counteract the terrorism threat. In this regard, the Council Conclusions of 20 November 2015, agreed by all the Member States, underline the importance of accelerating the implementation of all areas covered by the statement on counter-terrorism issued by the Members of the European Council on 12 February 2015 and, in particular, of the following measures: the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) directive, firearms, controls of external borders, information-sharing, terrorist financing and the criminal justice response to terrorism and violent extremism.
In referring to the critical importance of co-operation between the police and intelligence services in combating terrorism, I expressed my view that enhanced access for EU police and security services to data and intelligence-sharing has a critical role in the fight against terrorism. An Garda Síochána co-operates closely with it EU counterpart services and it makes full use of the range of information-sharing means available to them, including through Interpol, Europol and bi-lateral channels.
That said, opportunities that we consider could further enhance that co-operation must be pursued. In this regard, I am determined that An Garda Síochána will have access to the Schengen Information System for terrorism and criminal purposes and I am arranging that the necessary steps in this regard will now be taken as quickly as possible.
In relation to the EU PNR Directive, I confirmed at the Council that Ireland fully supports the aim of securing early agreement with the European Parliament given the importance of ensuring that for the purposes of combating terrorism and serious crime law, enforcement services can have access to PNR data in the context of a robust framework of safeguards for privacy and data protection.