Minister for Justice says no question of surveillance by spy agency in Ireland

Frances Fitzgerald asked to comment on revelations British agency tapped undersea cables between Ireland and Britain

Frances Fitzgerald: “it is important to point out that these media reports do suggest that if such surveillance is being carried out, then it is happening within the UK’s own jurisdiction’’

Frances Fitzgerald: “it is important to point out that these media reports do suggest that if such surveillance is being carried out, then it is happening within the UK’s own jurisdiction’’

 

There was no question of any form of mass surveillance being carried out in Ireland by a British spy agency, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told the Seanad.

“It is important to point out that these media reports do suggest that if such surveillance is being carried out, then it is happening within the UK’s own jurisdiction,’’ she added.

The Minister was replying to Kathryn Reilly (SF) and Mark Daly (FF). Ms Reilly asked the Minister to comment on revelations that the agency, General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had directly tapped undersea communications cables between Ireland and Britain.

Ms Daly called for a statement on media reports about the British government tapping into Irish communication networks and outline what action the Government was taking to ensure it ceased immediately.

The Minister said every country made its own legal arrangements for lawful interception.

“I would expect that any such measures would have a proper legal basis and that the level of interference is proportionate to the aim sought to be achieved,’’ she added.

She said Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan had been in contact with the British embassy.

“It has been conveyed that it is generally understood that friendly relationships between states include acceptance of the principle that the privacy of communications must be respected,’’ said Ms Fitzgerald.

The Minister said the need to protect people from terrorist and other criminal threats was acknowledged.

“However, it is also necessary to ensure that the information is properly obtained and subject to appropriate safeguards,’’ she added.

“I would expect the UK and other states to follow these principles.’’

Mutual assistance

Ms Fitzgerald said there had been much confusion about the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008, giving effect to the EU convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters.

It applied only to mutual assistance relating to criminal matters and did not provide for assistance for intelligence-gathering purposes, she said.

The Minister added that the need to commence part three of the Act at this time arose from the changes brought about to the structure of the EU as a result of the Treaty of Lisbon.

In accordance with the treaty, instruments providing for co-operation in police and criminal justice matters had to be implemented within five years of the treaty coming into effect. In order to accede to the convention, all parts of the 2008 Act had to be brought into force, said Ms Fitzgerald, adding that Ireland would have risked infringement proceedings and potential fines had it not done so.