Ministers fight EU bid to give Israel data
IRELAND is to vote today against an EU plan to allow sensitive personal data on European citizens to be handed over to Israel.
A crucial meeting to determine whether the plan should go ahead is taking place in Brussels.
A special European Commission committee was forced to call the meeting after Justice Minister Dermot Ahern blocked a bid to push through the plan "on the nod" without consultation with government ministers from EU states.
The commission is comprised of officials from the 27 member states and Ireland will be represented today by a senior official from the Department of Justice.
Before yesterday's Cabinet meeting, Mr Ahern met Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin to discuss the Brussels talks and the two men agreed that Ireland should push for a vote by the committee and then oppose the plan.
The committee wants to include Israel on a list of 'third' countries that are already deemed to have adequate data protection safeguards to allow them receive personal data on European citizens.
The list already includes countries like the US, Switzerland, Canada, Argentina, the Isle of Man and Guernsey.
Ireland will today ask the committee to explain if steps were taken to establish what data protection safeguards were in place in Israel, whether the data protection commissioner there was independent of the Israeli government, and if any enquiries were made about the use of Irish and other EU passports by Israelis agents, blamed for the murder of Hamas activist, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in a hotel in Dubai.
It is not yet clear how much support Ireland will receive for its stance from other EU states.
Despite the furore over the use of British passports by the Israeli agents, the government in London has not yet voiced any concerns about the data issue.
The plan can be approved by a majority vote.
The initial findings of the committee were circulated to officials in all governments and a failure to respond to their report would have been interpreted as approval for the recommendation.
But the controversial measure was spotted by Mr Ahern and he raised Irish worries over the move at a meeting of the justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels in July.
He discovered that a number of the ministers had not been aware of the plan.
He pointed out that the measure was being pushed through at a time when the Irish public and Government were outraged at the use of forged Irish passports by those alleged to have been involved in the Dubai assassination.
An Israeli diplomat was expelled from Dublin in June in retaliation for the passport abuses.
Mr Ahern explained that Ireland could not be expected to accept the granting of 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.