THE European Court of Justice has ruled against Ireland in a row over the legal basis upon which European countries are forced to retain phone and internet data.
Under a three-year-old EU law designed to combat terror and serious crime, telecoms operators are obliged to keep phone and internet data for up to two years.
Ireland, which keeps such data for up to three years, claimed the law should have been placed onto the EU books under the bloc's justice and home affairs provisions which requires unanimous agreement between member states and would have given each country the final say on the matter.
But the European Commission intervened to make the law using the bloc's internal market as a justification and adopted the controversial data retention directive based on a provision of the EU treaty which allows qualified majority voting.
The ruling is a setback for the Irish Government which feared that a precedent such as this would result in the introduction of more laws in the sensitive area of justice and policing by qualified majority voting and co-decision with members of the European Parliament rather than by unanimous agreement between governments.
The Irish Government, supported by Slovakia, argued that the data retention law -- widely regarded as a key to Europe's fight against terrorism -- had not been adopted on an appropriate legal basis.