Ahern puts brakes on plan to give Israel data
IRELAND has forced a rethink on a plan to allow sensitive personal data on European citizens to be handed over to Israel.
A special European Commission committee recommended that Israel should be granted access to the data if they required details on named persons.
The proposal looked set to be passed through 'on the nod' until objections were raised by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
Mr Ahern briefed other ministers on the EU move and discovered that a number of them were not aware of the plan.
The findings of the committee were circulated to all governments and a failure to respond to their report would have been interpreted as approval for the recommendation.
However, the controversial measure was spotted in the Department of Justice and Mr Ahern voiced Irish concerns at a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs ministers in Brussels at the end of last week.
He pointed out that the measure was being pushed through by the committee at a time when the Irish public and the Government were outraged at the use of forged Irish passport by Israeli agents, who were alleged to have murdered Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai.
Mr Ahern explained that Ireland could not be expected to accept granting access for the Israeli authorities to a raft of personal details on Irish citizens while at the same time publicly criticising Israeli abuses of private passport information.
As a result of investigations by the gardai and the findings of police in other countries, the Government concluded that an official Israeli agency had been responsible for the "misuse and, most likely, the manufacture" of the eight fake Irish passports.
An Israeli diplomat was expelled from Dublin last month in response to the passport abuses.
Following the Brussels meeting, it has now been decided that the European Commission committee must meet formally in September to discuss the issue again rather than trying to push it through on an informal basis.
Officials in Dublin last night accepted that Mr Ahern was facing an uphill battle in preventing the recommendation from being put into operation.
But they said that more detailed consideration of the proposal by other EU governments was likely to result in some support from member states in the interim.
A number of other ministers also outlined their concerns when they learned of the committee's proposal.
The Dubai incident is the only confirmed case of forged Irish passports being used in overseas crime in the past 10 years. But the gardai and the Passport Service are currently investigating a second recent case where a fake Irish passport was used by a Russian spy in the United States.