Europol (Amendment) Bill 2006: Committee and Remaining Stages.

Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank all the Senators for their contributions and the interest they have shown in the issues addressed by the Bill. While this is a short Bill, it concerns the important matter of increasing co-operation between EU member states for purposes of preventing and combating serious crime in areas such as drug trafficking, money laundering and the trafficking of human beings. The Europol Convention and two earlier protocols in 1996 and 1997 were given force of law in this jurisdiction by the Europol Act 1997. On the passing of this Bill into law, the three protocols which are the subject of this Bill will become Schedules to the Europol Act 1997 and Ireland can then, subject to Government approval, ratify them.

The objective of the Bill is to facilitate Ireland's ratification of three additional protocols to the 1995 Europol Convention. The effect of the protocols is to extend the competence of Europol in the area of money laundering, as well as clarifying certain issues on joint investigation teams and streamlining certain aspects of the internal working of Europol.

Our fight against organised crime and terrorism internationally is closely linked to the increasing effectiveness of Europol in fulfilling its mandate. The effective functioning of Europol greatly increases the potential of EU member states to prioritise crime analysis, policy advice and law enforcement.

There is a debate among member states as to the future direction of Europol. The general consensus at present is that it must be allowed to continue to grow within its current framework. Ireland will continue to play its role and to this end, the ratification of the three protocols which are the subject of the Bill is important.

I thank Senators for their interest in the Bill and their earlier constructive contributions to it. I am grateful to Senators who have indicated their interest in seeing that this process is brought to a speedy conclusion. I also thank the Department officials who have put much work into ensuring that this Bill accords with the wishes of both Houses of the Oireachtas. We have put good, important legislation through the House today.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and say how pleased we are that this Bill has passed all Stages. I also compliment his officials on their work.

It brings into effect the three Schedules. These, effectively, are additional Schedules dealing with terrorism measures etc., which we fully support. On Second Stage a point I made, which was echoed by Senator Quinn, was that these protocols are six, four and three years old, respectively, and a better mechanism than the current one must be put in place to speed up the process of ratifying such protocols. The Minister, Deputy McDowell, stated on Second Stage that he would look at whether it is necessary to include them as Bills, as in this case, or whether it can be done in another way. I hope we have learned and improve the time of passage of similar protocols in the future.

These protocols will assist in our fight against terrorism. My party fully supports the Bill and commends the Minister of State and his officials on its passage.

I welcome of Minister of State and thank him and his officials. This is an important Bill. The reality of money laundering today and the capacity to move funds instantaneously across borders and continents means that we need to keep up to date. We need to ensure that the police authorities throughout Europe possess the necessary facilities and legal framework within which to work, including the data. Only yesterday we saw a stark reminder of what can happen when we heard that an aeroplane crashed into a building in New York. If nothing else, it reminded us of terrorism today and the need to be ever vigilant. I commend and thank the Minister of State.

I do not have anything to add, except to thank the Minister of State and his staff for their work on the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.