· EU Justice and Interior Ministers respond to the Paris terrorist attacks.
· Minister Fitzgerald expresses Ireland’s solidarity with France and urges early agreement on Passenger Name Records Directive.
· Ireland commencing process to participate in Schengen Information System


20th November, 2015, Brussels

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, TD today met with EU Justice and Interior Ministers in emergency session in Brussels to discuss the European Union’s response to the Paris terrorist attacks.

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.

Speaking on conclusion of the meeting, Minister Fitzgerald said she had expressed on behalf of Ireland her deepest sympathy to the French Government and to the people of France. Referring to the issues discussed at the meeting, the Minister said that she had offered Ireland’s support for the proposals put forward by France as reflected in the Council Conclusions.

The Minister said, “Today we stand in solidarity with France, the French people and all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. The savage attacks in Paris last Friday struck at the heart of the values and freedoms espoused by the European Union and are a chilling reminder of the dangers we face from international terrorism. This stark reality was again put in sharp focus this morning when the French Interior Minister, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, informed the meeting of the breaking news he had received of a terrorist attack underway in Mali.”

“The first duty of any Government is to protect the safety if its citizens. Ireland supports the measures France has tabled and it is now the collective duty of the Member States to take all reasonable steps necessary to face down this heinous threat and keep the people of Europe safe.”

Referring to the critical importance of cooperation between the police and intelligence services in combating terrorism, Minister Fitzgerald said, “Enhanced access for EU police and security services to data and intelligence sharing has a critical role in the fight against terrorism. It is now more essential than ever that the Passenger Name Records Directive be agreed urgently. Ireland fully supports this measure and I hope that early agreement with the European Parliament can be secured.”

Minister Fitzgerald reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to supporting the comprehensive sharing of information on crime and security matters and signalled that Ireland will now commence the process to participate fully in the Schengen Information System (SIS II).

The Minister said, “I am determined to press ahead with the necessary steps for Ireland’s participation in the Schengen Information System. It must be emphasised, however, that while SIS can be a more efficient way of sharing information, 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.”

In relation to other issues discussed by Ministers, Minister Fitzgerald indicated her support for proposals relating to terrorist financing, stating that disrupting the flow of funds to terrorists is a vital aspect of combating their activities. The Minister also gave Ireland’s support to EU common standards for the deactivation of firearms and welcomed the Commission’s proposal to develop an Action Plan against illegal trafficking of weapons.

The Minister also stated that the establishment in Europol of the Counter Terrorism Centre is an important development and 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.