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Sunday 26 February 2017

Irish objections force EU to drop Israel data plan

Tom Brady Security Editor

IRELAND has forced the withdrawal of a controversial EU plan to allow Israel access to sensitive personal data on Irish citizens.

The proposal was taken off the table at a European Commission meeting in Brussels yesterday following an objection lodged by the Government.

The Irish representative, a senior official from the Department of Justice, had intended to vote against the proposal at the meeting.

But as the talks got under way yesterday morning, the commission indicated that the proposal was being withdrawn because of the concerns raised by the Irish.

In Dublin yesterday Justice Minister Dermot Ahern admitted that he had been somewhat surprised by the commission's decision, but said it was recognition of the good work that had been done by his officials since he had first highlighted the concerns at a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in July.

He said the Irish objection was justified in the wake of the discovery that agents of the Israeli state had tampered with the details on Irish passports.

He was referring to the findings of gardai and other police forces, which led the Government here to conclude that an official Israeli agency had been responsible for the "misuse and, most likely, the manufacture" of eight fake Irish passports.

Murdered

The forged passports were subsequently used by Israeli agents, who were alleged to have then murdered Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai.

Mr Ahern said the Irish concerns were also based on the failure of the Israeli government to include the manual examination of passports at border controls in the data-protection legislation.

The Irish were also worried about the status of the Israeli data-protection commissioner, who did not have the independence afforded to his counterparts in EU jurisdictions.

It is understood that the British government, while indicating that they understood the Irish objections, would have supported the proposal if the issue had gone to a vote.

Last June an Israeli diplomat was expelled from Dublin in retaliation for the Israeli passport abuses.

Asked if the Irish stance at the meeting would further affect relations between the two states, Mr Ahern said that was a matter for the diplomats.

EU states are represented by civil servants at the meetings and Mr Ahern only became aware in July that the commission intended to push through the Israeli application "on the nod" -- without a vote.

Following the Irish objections, the commission postponed a final decision until yesterday.

Irish Independent

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