Airline passenger data law a ‘bad deal’ for liberty of citizens

Sinn Féin MEPs and Nessa Childers to vote against legislation in European Parliament

A number of Irish MEPs are set to vote against new EU legislation that will require airlines to share passenger data with national authorities, despite claims that it will help to protect EU citizens from terrorist threats.

Independent MEP Nessa Childers and Sinn Féin's MEPs are expected to vote against the legislation when it goes before the parliament on Thursday.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Ms Childers said the new Passenger Name Records (PNR) directive was "a bad deal for both the liberty and the security of European citizens", as she urged fellow Irish MEPs to vote against the legislation.

Fine Gael's four MEPs are expected to back the legislation. Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy, Liadh Ni Riada and Lynn Boylan will vote against the rules.


While the PNR directive has been moving through the EU legislative system for almost five years, the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels have put renewed focus on the directive. Under the proposal, airlines will be obliged to collect data relating to passengers and pass this information to designated authorities in member states. Under the draft agreement, personal information would be stored for six months and then encrypted for a further 4½ years.

Calls for the European Parliament to adopt the legislation, which has already been agreed by member states, have intensified following revelations that perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels moved freely throughout the European Union without detection.

Speaking during a visit to the parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, French prime minister Manuel Valls urged MEPs to back the proposal. "No one is saying that the PNR would have averted the attacks, but this file offers an additional way to fight terrorism," he said.

France has been leading calls for the swift adoption of the new laws in the wake of last year's attacks in Paris. Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan also previously called on Irish MEPs to back the directive.

Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune said the new directive would empower the authorities to combat terrorism and serious crime by tracking the movements of suspects. She criticised those MEPs who had blocked the file so far. "That is political posturing at its worst – disingenuously hidden behind unjustified privacy concerns," the Ireland South MEP said.

But Sinn Féin MEP for Northern Ireland Martina Anderson said the directive violated the right to privacy and presumption of innocence enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

As MEPs on Tuesday debated counter-terrorism measures in the wake of the Paris and Brussels attacks, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) called for a new European database on potential terrorists to be drawn up, while it called for Europol’s resources to be strengthened.

Addressing the parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said systems were already in place that furnished police and border guards with relevant information on the movement of people. "But, as too often when it comes to security issues , the problem is not so much the lack of tools , but the failure to use existing tools and the lack of co-operation particularly," he said.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent