iPhones, Whatsapp and online storage should have a 'back door key' to allow police to fight serious crime, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.
The Garda chief wants new laws which would allow the force to compel the owners of encrypted devices to hand over their passwords or encryption keys.
"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.
"We understand entirely the issues around very strong, almost undefeatable, encryption there is in certain places. One would wonder why that's there."
It is the first time a commissioner has called for such access to personal technology and his comments will be noted by international police forces as well as politicians, security agencies, technology firms and civil liberties groups.
The outgoing government had plans to equip a new online safety commission with powers which could see it demand access to encrypted or locked iPhones and private messages.
However, its legislative plans died when the Dáil was dissolved last month and it will now be up to whatever parties enter power to draw up their own proposals.
Mr Harris said such powers would be "very useful" in investigating "serious crime, like child abuse". He also questioned why absolute encryption is necessary.
Asked if he favoured legislation requiring the handing over of digital passwords in criminal investigations, Mr Harris told the Irish Independent that "it should be part" of garda resources in their efforts to fight crime.
"I think in certain cases around very serious crime such as the possession of child abuse images or other serious offences, 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."
This week, Ireland's Garda Commissioner added his voice to those calling for a backdoor 'key' to encrypted devices such as iPhones. Drew Harris said that this would be "very useful" in investigating "serious crime, like child abuse". He also questioned why absolute encryption is completely necessary, suggesting a balance of rights ranged between privacy and security.