Mobile phone companies could be ordered to shut down networks for security threats

The powers were for situations where a mobile phone might be used to detonate a device remotely, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the amendments as an abuse of process, giving the Minister “pretty draconian powers”

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the amendments as an abuse of process, giving the Minister “pretty draconian powers”

Thu, May 23, 2013, 01:00


The Dáil has granted the Minister for Justice powers to order mobile phone companies to shut down parts, and where necessary, all of their networks across the State in the event of a security threat.

Alan Shatter moved the last minute amendments to the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill in advance of next month’s G8 summit in Fermanagh.

The powers were for situations where a mobile phone might be used to detonate a device remotely, the Minister said. He said mobile phone companies could be instructed to shut down their services in particular areas for a limited period of time where it was felt necessary to avoid such a threat.

Mr Shatter told the House Britain and Northern Ireland had such powers as did Australia and it was important for An Garda to be able to liaise with the PSNI to deal with any incidents involving explosive devices. A mobile phone network shutdown could operate for a maximum of six hours, he said.

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the amendments as an abuse of process and said they had nothing to do with the original Bill dealing with money laundering and financing terrorism.

They were being introduced at the last minute and giving the Minister “pretty draconian powers”. The Dun Laoghaire TD described the amendments as vague and general.

“As I see it, there is nothing whatsoever in the way these amendments are worded to stop the Minister and the Garda making the decision to turn off mobile phone communications in and around a protest.”

But Mr Shatter said the Bill was very clear. “It is about the protection of life” and not preventing peaceful demonstrations. The Bill was passed without a vote as fewer than 10 TDs, members of the technical group, opposed it.