Home > Dail Eireann debate. Europol Bill 2012: Second Stage (continued).

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Europol Bill 2012: Second Stage (continued). (04 Oct 2012)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

[Deputy David Stanton:]... This means the role of agencies such as Interpol is even more critical. There are organised, serious criminal industries making a lot of money from cyber-crime. We must not be blind to the problem or turn our backs. We must be very careful and ensure there is co-operation across member states. If two or more member states are involved, Europol can have a role.... 

In the past two nights, we debated drug and alcohol abuse. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction said that a powder combination of ecstasy and the amphetamine PMMA found in Cork last month may be the first of its kind in Europe. Previously, reports referred only to tablets. There is now talk of an early warning system for new substances, using information provided by Europol.


Europol was set up in 1995 and is now to be established on a more formal footing. There is to be more democratic control. It is an important agency and, therefore, I support the Bill. During the Private Members' debate in the Chamber yesterday, I expressed my concern that much good work is being done on drugs and alcohol by the various agencies in this State but that the Oireachtas could do more. I suggested that we consider establishing a parliamentary committee whose sole task would be to focus on drug and alcohol abuse in the State. This would cut across all the agencies and committees. The committee, chaired by Deputy Buttimer, produced a very good report on alcohol abuse and other committees are doing similar work, but they are all fragmented and all in their own silos. As a Parliament, we need to bring the work together because the drug threat is one of the largest we are facing nationally and internationally. We should consider my suggestion to try to deal with this. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to speak.


Deputy Jerry Buttimer: I thank Deputy Stanton for his proposal on the committee. There is merit in his suggestion because we are all operating in a silo, looking after our own sectoral interests. With regard to drugs, particularly illegal drugs, there is a need to have a dedicated committee. I hope the Whip and all the relevant Departments could consider this.


This is an important Bill. We are debating it in a Chamber in which no members of the Opposition are present. This is extraordinary given that we are in a parliamentary democracy. What level of interest do they have at all?


It is important that we consider this matter in the context of what the ordinary person would think about Europol. It is not a question of a European police force or an organisation similar to Interpol. Europol is a law enforcement agency, not a police force. It cannot arrest people or search homes but what it does quite well is facilitate the exchange of information between member states through the analysis of intelligence, co-ordination of operations between two or more countries and the sharing of information on the activities of police forces. In a world where international travel and the sharing of information are easy, it is crucial that there be co-operation at a high level between all national police forces. If we are to combat sophisticated crime networks, state law enforcement bodies must have the systems and resources designed to tackle the international aspect of criminal activity. 


Deputy Stanton referred to cyber-crime and cyber-activity. These comprise a growing phenomenon in Europe and across the world. Europol is one international organisation that can assist in the battle against international crime.


The Bill is technical and makes a number of changes to improve the operation and effectiveness of Europol. The organisation was established as a formal agency under an EU convention in 2009. The European Council decided to replace the convention with a Council decision. This requires the Oireachtas to enact legislation to provide for the operation of Europol. From a practical perspective, it is making it easier to make further changes, if needed, in the years ahead. This is good because we must not allow inter-country activity to be made more complicated. Particularly in regard to crime, we must share information, including technical information.


The Bill makes a number of significant operational changes, which are important. The legislation will mean that Europol can take action where there is a serious offence involving two or more member states. I hope this change, which stipulates there is no longer a need for a factual indication of organised crime before Europol can become involved, will improve the co-operation between member states when dealing with serious offences.


Another change is that the Bill expands the categories of crime in respect of which Europol can become involved. It can become involved where there has been suspected drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking. These three crimes are becoming very prevalent on the Continent, not just in Ireland.


I welcome the Minister's commitment and the resolve of An Garda Síochána, including the Garda Commissioner, on gangland crime. It is imperative that the State stamp out the thugs who are operating in our capital and other cities and killing people, including their own acquaintances and other criminals. It is most distressing that they are killing people in front of young children. We must never condone or allow this kind of activity to be carried out on our streets. The State should pursue those responsible and ensure they are put away for a long time.


I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána on their work. I know that Deputy Shatter, as Minister, will continue to prioritise the protection of the ordinary citizen in the State. It is not a question of headline grabbing, as has been done by some members of the Opposition. An Garda Síochána is doing great work and is sharing information with other police forces across Europe. It is very easy to enter the House as a mouthpiece on the closure of Garda barracks. The reality is that we must work to eliminate crime. This requires members of the Opposition to have backbone also and their being able to stand up to the thugs and criminals. The State requires that we be firm about crime, stand up to criminals and do not use this Chamber as a soapbox. We ought to support An Garda Síochána and give it the necessary resources. This is important and the Minister will do so....


Europol Bill 2012: Second Stage (continued)

Thursday, 4 October 2012

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