421. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of applications the Garda Commissioner has made for authorisation to intercept under the Interception of Postal and Telecommunications Messages (Regulations) Act 1993 during the past five years; the number granted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34299/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): It is not the practice and it would be contrary to the public interest to disclose details of any authorisations to intercept, including their number. The Deputy will appreciate that this practice, which has been followed by my predecessors, arises for sound security reasons.
Furthermore, Section 12 of the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 places a requirement on the Minister for Justice and Equality to ensure that such arrangements are in place to limit to the minimum necessary the disclosure of the fact that an authorisation has been given, and the contents of any communication which has been intercepted pursuant to an authorisation. The Act defines "necessary" as necessary for the purpose of the prevention or detection of serious offences or in the interests of the security of the State.
I can, however, assure the Deputy that there is a comprehensive legislative regime in place to deal with lawful interception. Under Section 2 of the 1993 Act, Ministerial authorisation may be given for interceptions in the interests of the security of the State or for the purpose of criminal investigation. Such authorisations are only issued following application from the Garda Commissioner or the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, in accordance with the Act.
The 1993 Act also makes provision for independent judicial oversight of its operation by a serving Judge of the High Court who is designated for this purpose. The Designated Judge reports at least annually to the Taoiseach on the operation of the legislation and these reports are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The current designated judge is Mr Justice Paul McDermott. The Act also provides for a complaints mechanism whereby an individual who believes he or she has been the subject of an authorisation under the relevant provisions of the Act may apply to the independent Complaints Referee for an investigation into the matter. The Complaints Referee is Judge John Hannan of the Circuit Court who may be contacted at the Office of the Complaints Referee, Áras Uí Dhálaigh, Inns Quay, Dublin 7.