Regulation establishing Internal Security Fund: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of the following proposed measure:

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Internal Security Fund,

a copy of which was laid before Dáil Éireann on 9th July, 2018.

Over recent years, security threats have intensified and diversified in Europe. They are increasingly cross-border in nature meaning that member states must co-operate. The European budget can support member states as they work to keep Europeans safe and, together, build a Union that is resilient to future security challenges and is better equipped to respond to emergencies.

The objectives of the internal security fund are based on the scope of its predecessor instruments, including the instrument for police co-operation, preventing and combatting crime and crisis management, ISF-P, which was established by EU Regulation No. 513/2014 and formed part of the internal security fund in the period from 2014 to 2020.

Ireland participates in the current ISF-P, which will be replaced by this regulation. The ISF has enabled high-volume investments, especially in IT systems, from which Ireland has benefitted - for example Ireland’s connection to the fixed Interpol network database, FIND, for linked member countries to access Interpol’s global databases. The ISF fund has also been utilised to help establish Ireland’s passenger information unit as part of our compliance with the passenger name record EU Directive No. 681/2016. For the current ISF, An Garda Síochána acts as both the responsible authority and the audit authority. My Department regularly reviews expenditure under the current ISF fund in Ireland through the ISF monitoring committee. The committee meets quarterly and is comprised of officials from both my Department and An Garda Síochána.

The future ISF structure will contain a single general objective, namely, to contribute to ensuring a high level of security in the Union, in particular by tackling terrorism and radicalisation, serious and organised crime and cybercrime and by assisting and protecting victims of crime. This reflects the Union's security policy. The overall objective is supplemented by the following three important horizontal objectives: first, to increase the exchange of information among member states’ law enforcement and other competent authorities and other relevant European Union bodies, as well as with third countries and international organisations; second, to intensify cross-border joint operations among member states’ law enforcement and other competent authorities in relation to serious and organised crime with a cross-border dimension; and, third, to support efforts at strengthening the capabilities in relation to combatting and preventing crime including terrorism in particular through increased co-operation between public authorities, civil society and private partners across the member states.

The proposal aims to address the need for greater flexibility in managing the future fund. A new thematic facility comprising €1 billion will be allocated periodically allowing the funds to, at the initiative of the Commission, support targeted actions by member states and allow for a rapid response to immediate security challenges or emergencies. Funding under the thematic facility will be in line with the objective of the proposal, that is, increased exchange of information, law enforcement cross-border co-operation relating to serious organised crime, and strengthening capabilities to prevent crime including terrorism.

Allocations under the future internal security fund will be based on a 60:40 split. Approximately 50%, or €1.25 billion, will be allocated to member states initially, with a later mid-term allocation of 10% or €250 million. The remaining 40%, or €1 billion, will be assigned to the new thematic facility.

Each member state will receive a one-time fixed amount of €5 million to ensure a critical mass at the start of the programming period, plus an amount varying according to a distribution key weighted on the following criteria: 45% in inverse proportion to gross domestic product; 40% in proportion to the size of the population; and 15% in proportion to the size of the territory.

Under the current ISF police fund, approximately €9 million was allocated to Ireland to fund nine programmes. I welcome the increase by a factor of 1.8 of the funding available to member states’ national programmes and expect that Ireland’s allocation will similarly increase. A precise figure can only be determined by the information available in 2020. This will also depend on the types of projects pursued by An Garda Síochána under the fund, participation in specific actions which are eligible for additional allocations, and on the mid-term review in 2024.

The proposal does not present any fundamental policy difficulties for Ireland, and the Office of the Attorney General has advised that it sees no legal impediment to opting into this proposal.

I strongly believe that Ireland should participate in the adoption and application of each of these proposed measures. In doing so, Ireland will be in a position to benefit from financial assistance in pursuit of the various forms of police co-operation to which the proposed measure relates. Our participation will also enable Ireland to have a say in their final content, including particular budgetary allocations within and between each measure. Opting in now does not necessarily imply that all elements of the proposal are completely acceptable to Ireland, but simply that we support the substance of the proposals and wish to participate in their negotiation and adoption. Opting in now will lend weight to any policy positions that we may take during the negotiation process and will allow us to maximise our influence on the final shape of each of these regulations.

The Lisbon treaty was a lengthy and complicated process, particularly in this country. The treaty is a lengthy document with a series of protocols attached to it. One is Protocol No. 21 which deals specifically with entitlements that Ireland and the United Kingdom have with respect to certain issues concerning justice and home affairs. It shows how on matters of justice and home affairs in Europe, Ireland and the United Kingdom shared many views, partly because we are both common law jurisdictions.

Article 3 of Protocol No. 21 provided that Ireland and the United Kingdom could opt out of certain issues and provisions in respect of justice and home affairs. Subsequently, within the Irish legal process, we determined that if we wanted to be part of European Union justice and home affairs issues, there would have to be a vote of the Oireachtas. It shows that there is still democracy within the European project. Sometimes people complain that decisions are made by European bureaucrats in Brussels but at least here elected representatives have the opportunity to vote on the issue. The issue before us here is whether we should opt in to the regulation regarding an internal security fund. The name might be frightening to some, but it should not be. Fianna Fáil will support the proposal that we opt in to the process.

The fund is designed to deal with issues concerning terrorism and organised crime. Some may believe that some causes of terrorism relate to policies carried out by European Union countries themselves, and they may be correct in that, but that does not make anyone entitled to take another person's life. It does not give any organisation the authority to state it represents a political movement and as part of that will attack or kill people. For many years, this country saw how senseless that ideology was. Some people still think that this ideology is appropriate to secure the reunification of the national territory but it is not. To launch a campaign of violence against unionists is not a method by which we can attract them into a united Ireland. Unfortunately, terrorism and organised crime still exist in this society and throughout Europe. The people in the Bataclan theatre in November 2015 were victims of terrorism, as were the people on Westminster Bridge and in other areas of London in 2017. We must recognise that people in this country and elsewhere are entitled to be protected from terrorism. They are also entitled to have their lives protected from organised crime. In a civilised and organised society they ask their police forces to do that. Particularly in light of Brexit, it is crucial that there be increased co-operation between police forces in the European Union. We will lose Britain from the European Union in March next year, so increased co-operation with our European partners in investigation on terrorism and organised crime is more important than ever. I and other Members have spoken many times in this House of the need for increased resources for An Garda Síochána. This is an opportunity for it to receive greater resources from the European internal security fund.

It is clear that some €1 billion of the fund of approximately €2.5 billion will be invested in what has been referred to as a thematic facility. I asked the Minister questions about this thematic facility yesterday. I do not know where it is going to be based.

I am supportive of it, but we need further information on it. Some €1.5 billion will be distributed to member states. I hope we will get a significant amount of that. The Minister has said that the distribution of this part of the fund will not be determined until 2020. I expect, on the basis of the information that was given to us yesterday, that we will receive a significant amount. It will be based on the size of our GDP, our population and our territory. Anyone who is interested in getting funding and resources for the members of An Garda Síochána and other police forces around the world as they seek to fight organised crime and terrorism should welcome this initiative. The role played by EU military countries around the world is a separate issue. We should be independent enough to be capable of criticising those countries if necessary. That does not justify people launching physical armed attacks against citizens and other individuals in this country and other countries.

Before I address the substance of this proposal, the importance of co-operation between states, Governments, police forces and security organisations is evident if we are going to tackle serious crime, threats to society and international terrorist organisations. There is scope for significant co-operation. While there has not been an incident of this nature in Ireland in recent years, we would be naive to believe that Ireland could not be subject to an attack or to threats on Irish life.

The proposal before the House has two different elements. The first portion of the overall pot of €2.5 billion is a fund from which governments will have discretion to draw down money. In the case of Ireland, An Garda Síochána will be able to draw down money from this fund to aid its operations and resources, etc. This is reasonable and I do not have a particular difficulty with it. As I am agreeable to this proposal, we will not oppose it. However, we will not support it because we have significant reservations about the second aspect of it. The Minister has outlined on two occasions that he has reservations and concerns about the second part of this proposal, which relates to a €1 billion thematic fund, and I have similar concerns. This fund differs from the previous ISF proposal - the ongoing project - insofar as it proposes to increase the flexibility of the fund to accommodate targeted actions agreed by the European Commission. Clarity is still required in respect of this aspect of the matter. If the Minister can address it, he should do so. Will member states be required to go to the Commission with proposals for approval, or will proposals be initiated by the Commission? There is a significant difference between those two approaches.

I would also like to raise questions about the overlap between this part of the fund and the Common Security and Defence Policy, Frontex and the integrated border management fund. As a political party, Sinn Féin has reservations about areas of the Common Security and Defence Policy, which would have implications for Irish political and military neutrality. Such issues need to be addressed. I hope the Minister follows through on the reservations and concerns he has expressed about them. There will be negotiations, as the Minister outlined. I hope he takes a robust position in ensuring this fund is applied in a discrete manner and is not used to further whatever end the Commission desires. I refer, for example, to the possibility that a much broader remit will be sought for defence or common security and military ends. That needs to be avoided.

I have set out my reservations about the second part of this proposal, which is inadequately fleshed out. There is a need for further clarity and transparency. However, we will not oppose this measure because the first part of it is important so that An Garda Síochána is able to draw down the resources it requires to tackle domestic and international crime and co-operate with other relevant international policing and security organisations. It is in that context that we have decided not to oppose the motion before the House. The Minister needs to address the concerns I have raised on the floor of the House and in Europe.

I would like to share time with Deputy Wallace. The Minister said at yesterday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality that the ISF will be used for things like automatic facial recognition, information sharing between EU states, advance security at airports and surveillance. This type of thing should send a shiver down the spine of anybody who gives a hoot about civil liberties. The Minister went on to say that he is keen for Ireland to play a full role in that sort of stuff. He described it as the "best practice" in the war against terror. I have to break it to him that this kind trampling on civil liberties and this kind of security lunacy is the terror with which we should be at war. None of the nonsense that has been pursued since the Americans invented this concept 20 years ago is making any of us safer. Instead, it has made us vastly more insecure, frightened and uneasy. It has killed hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees in the Mediterranean Sea. It has invaded the private spaces and private lives of innocent citizens across the bloc.

Just under €11 billion is being spent on security in the EU between 2014 and 2020. Approximately €6.9 billion of this is being spent between the ISF and the asylum, migration and integration fund, the latter of which falls under the heading of security, which is inevitable in light of the EU's weaponised racism. A further €1.7 billion is being spent on the European security research project and €2.4 billion is being spent on EU home affairs agencies such as Europol and Frontex. Now the Government wants us to give the nod to a proposal which would double the ISF. Indeed, the EU's stated position is that it will double funding across the board on all of its security programmes. This is completely and utterly ineffective. If the western powers and the EU are serious about combatting terrorism, they will stop backing states that have wreaked war and destruction in the Middle East. It is reprehensible that we are here. Contrary to what Deputy O'Callaghan said, this is not a testament to our democracy. We would not even be discussing this if we had not kicked off at this week's committee meeting. Where are the so-called civil libertarians in the left-wing groups and the Social Democrats? Nobody is paying attention to these issues. People will wake up in years to come, when public money is being spent on the security industry and the weapons are being turned in, but it will be too late.

The Minister told the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality yesterday that Ireland's participation in the current ISF, which started in 2014 and will run until 2020, "has enabled high-volume investments, especially in IT systems, from which Ireland has benefitted". He also said "An Garda Síochána acts as both the responsible authority and the audit authority" for the expenditure of the internal security fund. Alarm bells ring when we hear IT systems, An Garda Síochána and audits being mentioned in the same sentence.

As I have pointed out on multiple occasions, there are serious problems with the functioning, value for money and procurement of the Garda's IT systems. I would like to ask a question about EU funding. Will the Minister confirm whether all external expenditure from the ISF between 2014 and 2020 was tendered for? An audit of Garda IT expenditure that was carried out in 2017 warned that the lack of expenditure controls may not satisfy the European Commission. In April of this year, I asked the Garda chief administrative officer, Mr. Joe Nugent, about certain EU projects that had been awarded to Accenture. I referred specifically to the EURODAC project in 2016, the Prüm project in 2017 and the Schengen information project in 2016. Mr. Nugent confirmed that neither the Prüm project nor the EURODAC project had been tendered for. It is not 100% clear whether this funding came from the ISF or from another EU fund. Will the Minister confirm which fund it came from? Is he concerned that we are using EU funding for IT systems without tendering for those projects.

When Deputy O'Callaghan addressed the House on behalf of Fianna Fáil, he said that the people in various places in Europe that have been attacked by terrorists are entitled to be protected.

I am not one bit surprised by the Fianna Fáil position. I am a bit disappointed that Sinn Féin is not opposing this motion because I believe it is absolute rubbish. Does Fianna Fáil believe the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine and Syria are not entitled to have their lives protected? We are doing the opposite of protecting these people. One reason for the terrorism in Europe in the past couple years is that we are bombing the living daylights out of these communities.

In a survey in Paris about three months after the attacks in that city, the French people indicated by way of a huge majority that they wanted the French Government to stop bombing the homes of people in Muslim countries. Every time one drops a bomb on these people, it makes matters worse. The European Union seems okay with it. The Irish Government does not seem to have a problem with it either given that it allows the US military to use Shannon Airport. We are facilitating the dropping of bombs on people. More than 33 million people have been displaced by bombing, mostly driven by the United States and supported in the main by France and Britain. Unfortunately, we are also complicit. If we want to stop terrorism in Europe, why not stop bombing homes? Every time one drops a bomb and kills a member of a family, one inspires 20 to 30 individuals who are prepared to die for a ridiculous cause. We do not agree with any form of terrorism. We want the people of Europe to feel safe. One of the best ways of doing that is to stop bombing these people.

I was following the debate from my office and I listened with interest to the various speeches. Our party will not be voting for the motion. Our position is along the lines of that expressed by Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, namely, that the best contribution we can make to countering terrorism, which I understand is the key objective in the establishment of the fund and the distribution of moneys, is to use the position we have - a very good position - in our relationship with people in the Middle East, particularly the Arab world. Yesterday, along with the Ceann Comhairle, a delegation met an Egyptian parliamentary delegation. It was here because we visited Egypt last year. At the sideline meeting, I happened to meet the Sudanese and Moroccan ambassadors and a number of others from the Middle East. I was reflecting that the only way of developing a long-term secure relationship between Europe and the Middle East, which is the area of concern, is through the diplomatic and political culture we bring to the relationship. We are in a unique position to try to provide a different perspective on what provides security.

While I am a strong supporter of the European Union, I believe it may be making the wrong investment and taking the wrong approach to security, particularly on border control. The way to deal with the very complex and difficult migration problem we face is ensuring security, stability, demographic advancement and the peaceful development of all the countries on our southern border. A security-led approach will not work.

I listened to what Deputy Jim O'Callaghan was saying on fighting terrorism. Have we learned anything in this country? We have learned that the way to address terrorism is to address the root causes. A security-led approach to the fear and threat of terrorism will be counter-productive. That is not to denigrate the good work of the Garda and the need for it to maintain intelligence and other resources. We are genuinely capable of presenting a different perspective on how to proceed. We will vote on that basis, standing up for investments in overseas aid and really close political dialogue and co-operation, and not holding up our noses to any one regime. It is a matter of trying to listen and of talking to regimes one would not necessarily agree with. One is better to engage in dialogue and peaceful diplomatic processes. That has been the strength of European Union. I fear that while we need to strengthen and develop our Union, the right way is not in radical, rapid, advanced security co-operation, as seen with PESCO and the likes of this fund. There is talk in Europe about even deeper co-operation in a range of areas. We oppose the motion and support an alternative - a positive, more practical and workable approach to the provision of security.

A friend of mine did aid work for many years in Afghanistan. She was working with the American Army there. I asked her what the generals thought. Having been in the country for five or ten years, one general at a high level told her that if he had only 1,000 workers, they would be worth 10,000 marines. That is true. We bring that political perspective. It goes right back to our roots. Irish nationalism was born in the early part of the 19th century. There is a lot in common between Irish nationalism and Arab nationalism. We have that position in place. We can help to address the terrorism issue by applying that thinking rather than going down the route of heavy securitisation.

I thank Members for their contributions. I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the plenary session of the House on this important issue following yesterday's committee deliberations. I understand, however, that it was the Labour Party that was quite vocal in ensuring the Dáil had an opportunity to debate the matter. I did not see its members at the committee meeting. We do not see its members here today either.

They did not open their mouths so I do not know where the Minister got that from.

Tá siad imithe.

I wish to reiterate the importance of member states working together on areas where co-operation enhances our individual efforts. I say so particularly in light of recent tragedies that have affected European citizens in several member states. That we in Ireland have not been the subject of a terrorist threat does not mean we are in some way immune. I acknowledge the work of the Garda and intelligence organisations, both internally and with our EU colleagues, to ensure the safety and protection of citizens in Ireland and the rest of the Union.

I thank Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, in particular, for his support. To respond to a number of questions he has raised, the office in respect of the thematic organisation will be in the EU Commission office in Brussels from where the fund is disbursed and administered. As far as the working of the thematic facility is concerned, member states will be actively involved in a negotiation process. Member states will set the priorities for the thematic facility, which will be used for specific actions from time to time where the need arises, particularly emergency assistance that may be appropriate.

I acknowledge the concerns of Deputy Ó Laoghaire. I do not believe his concerns warrant an abstention on the part of his party but I assure him on the limited scope of the operation. I refer again to the objectives I mentioned in my opening comments. Any actions with a military or defence purpose, or the purchases of any customs-control equipment, are not ordinarily eligible for support under the fund. I assure the Deputy in that regard.

I do not necessarily agree with the overall perspective shared by Deputy Eamon Ryan. He fails to see a need for organised counter-terrorism policies across the European Union.

I acknowledge the work Ireland does with its EU colleagues in terms of close co-operation in counterterrorism and also Ireland's influence in the broader international arena, with particular reference to the United Nations. Ireland's campaign for a place on the Security Council in 2021-22 is important and I hope that campaign has the support of every Member of the House, including the Green Party and the wider international Green movement. Ireland's soft power internationally is important.

I strongly believe we should participate fully in the adoption and application of each of the proposed measures. In doing so not only will we benefit from the financial assistance in pursuit of the various forms of police co-operation to which the measure relates but also our participation enables us to have a say in their final content.

We have no say in military matters. That is a joke. A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you should pick the Minister up on that.

The cynical laughter of Deputies Clare Daly and Wallace belies Ireland's position. Opting in now will lend weight to any policy positions we may take during the negotiation process.

The Minister is only going along for the sandwiches. He will have no say.

I note what Deputy Ó Laoghaire said in that regard. The negotiations are taking place and it is important that we have a seat at the table-----

That is a joke. How can the Minister say that with a straight face?

-----in order to maximise our influence in the final shape of the regulations. It is important that we engage in the dialogue to allow us to maximise our influence and to confirm our commitment, as set out in the Lisbon treaty, to a Europe that stands for freedom, justice and security.

It bombs the living daylights out of other countries.

Question put.

The division is postponed until immediately after the Order of Business on Tuesday, 2 October 2018, in accordance with the order of the Dáil today.