Ahern backs full body scanners


Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today told a Council of Ministers meeting in Toledo, Spain, he supported the introduction of full-body scanners to Irish airports.

During a 90 minute session on the subject of counter terrorism, Mr Ahern told other European ministers and US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that Ireland would play its part in overcoming international terrorism.

"If additional measures are required - and they are - either in exchange of passenger information or better technology, then we should do so. We need to fast track exchange of information which can play a very important role in defeating international terrorism. Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from increased information exchange, particularly internally in the EU, and better scanning devices and technology," he said.

"International co operation and co-ordination of all our efforts, particularly with the United States, will be essential to meet the terrorists head on. The clear message to send out is that terrorism will not win over the rule of democratic nations."

Britain and France are leading calls at EU level for the introduction of passenger name recognition (PNR) - information exchange used in profiling and detecting terror suspects - across the EU. Such a system is in place between the EU and the United States.

Ms Napolitano briefed Ministers regarding recent attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound aircraft on Christmas Day, and she called for information exchange and security co-operation during the summit of European interior ministers.

The head of the Slovak delegation attending the Justice and Home Affairs Council of Ministers meeting publicly apologised to Ireland over the Christmas explosives incident involving one of their citizens.

After a meeting between Mr Ahern and the Slovak delegation, the Slovak ambassador to Spain, Jan Skoda, gave the apology for the incident in which a Slovak national returning to Ireland after Christmas unwittingly carried explosive material into the country as part of an exercise.

Mr Ahern told the Slovak delegation he understood the communications difficulties surrounding the incident in Slovakia, but he told the meeting the fact someone could board an aircraft with explosive material was a "wake up call" for the EU.