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Question

47. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will be introducing new measures to tackle terrorism, given the recent attacks in Paris, France; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42646/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): As I said in the House last week, like other open and democratic states, Ireland cannot consider itself immune from the threat posed by international terrorism. As the Deputy said, sadly, Irish people have been caught up in international terrorist attacks. The current assessment of the threat to Ireland from this source is that while an attack here is possible, it is unlikely, nor is there any specific information that an attack on Ireland is planned. The level of threat from this source is kept under constant review by An Garda Síochána. Given that the threat is evolving, the Garda Commissioner is carrying out a review and will let me know what additional requirements may arise.
European Union Justice Ministers held an emergency meeting in the week following the attacks in Paris on 13 November. Ministers were at one in seeking to progress all reasonable measures to counteract the terrorist threat. In this regard, the Council focused on several key issues, including the EU passenger name records, PNR, directive, supported by Deputies across the House, firearms, control of external borders and information-sharing of intelligence.
Co-operation between the police and intelligence services is essential. Enhanced access for EU police and security services to data and intelligence-sharing has a critical role in the fight against terrorism. Our involvement with Europol and Interpol is critical in that regard. That said, opportunities which 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. I have secured additional funding of €4 million for this purpose. The necessary steps in this regard will now be taken as quickly as possible by An Garda Síochána.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
I also emphasised that early agreement on the EU passenger name records directive will be important to ensure law enforcement services can have access to these data, supported by a robust framework of privacy and data protection safeguards. The Council also welcomed new common European standards for deactivating firearms and enhanced efforts to tackle the smuggling of illegal weapons.
The Deputy will be aware that I am rolling out a very significant programme of investment in An Garda Síochána. In terms of recruitment, I announced recently that 600 new gardaí would be recruited in 2016, bringing to a total of 1,150 the number of new gardaí to be recruited since the Garda training college was reopened in September 2014.
Very significant investment has been made in the Garda fleet. At the end of October I announced a further €5.3 million for the purchase of an additional 260 Garda vehicles before the end of the year. This will bring to a total of €34 million the money that will have been invested in the Garda fleet since 2012. I have also secured very significant investment in Garda information and communications technology resources. Over the lifetime of the Government's capital investment programme, investment in Garda ICT will total €330 million. This will be essential to enhance and develop An Garda Síochána's capabilities into the future.
The Garda authorities have been taking all necessary security measures and the relevant agencies here co-operate closely on any threats identified. Robust emergency planning arrangements are in place to address a large range of emergencies, from flooding to national security incidents. There is an Office of Emergency Planning situated in the Department of Defence and the Minister for Defence chairs the Government’s task force on emergency planning which meets regularly. Planning arrangements for a range of emergencies are co-ordinated in this framework.