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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris says he would work with a Sinn Fein justice minister but wants a backdoor key for iPhones

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Overtime ban: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: David Conachy

Overtime ban: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: David Conachy

Overtime ban: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Picture: David Conachy

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said that he would work with a Sinn Fein justice minister “to provide for the security of the country”.

Speaking at an event to highlight the blocking of websites that host child abuse material, Mr Harris said that he is “here to protect democracy” and would “work with whoever is the democratically elected minister”.

“I’m here to keep people safe and to provide for the security of the country. So whatever minister we have I’m sure we’ll have a positive working relationship.”

Mr Harris was speaking after Sinn Fein recorded the highest number of first preference votes in the general election, making it a likely coalition partner in the next government.

Separately, Mr Harris said that he favours a backdoor security “key” for iPhones to help fight crime.

“If there was a key that could be used by law enforcement so that we could get to data and evidence of crime, that would be very useful to us,” he said.

The issue of a ‘backdoor’ security key is a battleground between governments, police forces, privacy advocates and technology companies.

Firms such as Apple say that to weaken encryption on iPhones and iMessage would ultimately lead to weaker security for everyone and could give criminals an upper hand.

US and UK authorities have publicly clashed with Apple and other companies over the issue, with a string of terrorist cases providing flashpoints in recent years.

Asked if he favoured legislation requiring the handing over of digital passwords in criminal investigations, Mr Harris said that “it should be part” of Garda resources in its efforts to fight crime.

“I think in certain cases around very serious crime such as the possession of child abuse images, or other serious offenses, yes, that should be a power that is open to us, and it should therefore then be part of our ability to search for evidence.”

Mr Harris was speaking as the country’s biggest internet service providers agreed to closer co-operation with Garda efforts to block websites using child abuse material. Under the initiative, sites that have child abuse imagery will show a warning message, informing the user that the site contains illegal material.

The scheme will use Interpol’s “Worst Of” list, which currently has 1,857 websites which are blocked worldwide.

Online Editors