90. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will report on the emergency meeting of EU Justice and Interior Ministers in Brussels in Belgium on 20 November 2015 which discussed the European Union’s response to the terrorist attacks in Paris in France; the proposals the Irish Government made as being the most appropriate response to the tragic events there; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42436/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 20 November 2015, I met with EU Justice and Interior Ministers in emergency session in Brussels to discuss the European Union's response to the terrorist attacks, which took place in Paris on 13 November 2015. As well as making clear Member States’ solidarity with France, the focus of Ministers’ was ensuring an appropriate and unified response to the attacks, including all reasonable measures to counteract the terrorism threat. In this regard, the Council Conclusions of 20 November 2015 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.
At the meeting on 20 November, I expressed on behalf of Ireland my deepest sympathy to the French Government and to the people of France. I offered Ireland’s support for the Council Conclusions, and in particular the proposals put forward by France.
In referring to the critical importance of cooperation between the police and intelligence services in combatting 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 already makes full use of the range of information sharing means available to them, including Interpol, Europol and especially bi-lateral information exchange. I added that we must always be careful to ensure that any additional measures we consider enhance rather than complicate that existing co-operation.
In relation to the European Passenger Name Record Directive, the Council emphasised that the Directive should include internal EU flights in its scope, provide for a sufficiently long period during which the PNR data can be retained in non-masked-out form and that the Directive should not be limited only to crimes of a transnational nature. I confirmed that Ireland fully supports the compromise proposals put forward by the Presidency in relation to the Directive in the interests of securing early agreement with the European Parliament before the end of 2015. I am satisfied that the Council’s general approach on the PNR proposal, which was established in April 2012 and supported by Ireland, contains a robust set of bespoke safeguards for privacy and data protection in the context of a proportionate framework for providing law enforcement access to PNR data to support the fight against terrorism and serious crime.
In relation to other issues discussed, I indicated Ireland’s support for the proposals relating to terrorist financing, given the fact that disrupting the flow of funds to terrorists is a vital aspect of combatting their activities. I also confirmed that Ireland supports EU common standards for the deactivation of firearms and welcomed the Commission’s proposal to develop an Action Plan against illegal trafficking of weapons.
I acknowledged that the establishment in Europol of the Counter Terrorism Centre is an important development and that its role in removing illegal internet content will be particularly important in helping to stem the spread of material that contributes to radicalising people and feeding extremism.