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Passenger Names Record agreement must be amended to address human rights concerns – Ó Snodaigh

4 July, 2007

Sinn Féin Human Rights Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Government to amend the proposed Passenger Name Records (PNR) agreement before its full adoption by the European Council on Tuesday.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Every time a regressive, rights-infringing measure is proposed by the Council of Ministers this government rams and rushes it through. Yet when it comes to international measures that are progressive in nature and would add to the rights enjoyed by citizens such as the anti-discrimination Optional Protocol or the UN Convention on Trafficking the government sits back and 'analyses the implications' for years to avoid action.

"This parliament is being treated by the government and the EU as a pre-approving rubber stamp. Shamefully with the backing of the majority they have reduced our role to an administrative rather than a scrutiny function. We have come to expect this from Fianna Fáil back-benchers. But we had higher hopes for the Greens who prior to entering government stated their principled opposition to the contents of the interim PNR Agreement on data protection grounds. European data protection authorities have slammed the new Agreement before us now as even weaker.

"The Tánaiste said this morning 'it is important that no legal vacuum is allowed to arise'. But the government are creating legal vacuums by giving ever greater powers to unaccountable intelligence agencies without introducing adequate legal safeguards to protect against any unnecessary invasions of privacy. And no one has stopped to consider whether the fundamental rights-infringing PNR agreement in operation thus far has actually contributed to a reduction in crime. Why has the government still not questioned whether the arrangement has been effective before proposing a further Agreement and its approval to the Oireachtas?

"EU member-states should not allow themselves to be bullied into applying an Agreement which fails to guarantee the data protection rights of its citizens. As the current Green Party Minister Eamonn Ryan said, on the last occasion that we dealt with this issue, 'We could and should have sought a better agreement to protect the right to privacy'. Well this time he's in Cabinet so, if he really meant it, then it's up to him to seek a better agreement now. Ireland can opt out of this Agreement. It can negotiate an Agreement of its own if needs be or it can take the lead within the EU Council in demanding a more acceptable Agreement. I am calling on the government to amend the proposed agreement before its full adoption by the Council next Tuesday to address the concerns that I have raised and to ensure that at a minimum: an annual evaluation of the Agreement covering both the detail of its operation and also its effectiveness against its stated objective of 'fighting terrorism'; and that any change in US, EU or Irish data protection provisions relevant to the operation of the Agreement would prompt an immediate and transparent renegotiation of the Agreement requiring further approval by both houses of the Oireachtas." ENDS

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