Gardaí to get access to top EU security database
Gardaí are set to gain access to an EU-wide border security database for the first time next year.
The Government is in the process of ensuring officers can get access to the Schengen Information System (SIS II), which allows police and border guards across the EU to exchange information and see alerts about certain categories of wanted criminals or missing people.
The UK has access, but due to the financial crisis, plans here to develop the infrastructure to tap into the system had to be shelved.
"Ireland does not yet have access to the SIS II system, as funding was not available for the works required during the financial crisis," the Department of Justice told the Irish Independent.
"The Tánaiste expects An Garda Síochána should have access to the SIS II system in the course of 2018."
A spokesman for the department said the SIS contract to begin the rollout of the system was awarded in December and work has begun.
The system is in operation in EU member states and associated countries that are part of the Schengen Area, while special conditions exist for states participating that are not part of the Schengen Area, such as the UK and now Ireland.
The Government has pointed out that gardaí already make full use of the range of information sharing means available to them, including Interpol and Europol.
It comes in the wake of two men being charged this week by gardaí investigating alleged people-smuggling operating through Dublin Airport.
Meanwhile, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has moved to "clarify" comments he made suggesting immigration controls were weaker in the Republic than the North, claiming he has no concerns about the commitment of gardaí.
Mr Hamilton told a Westminster committee last month that immigration controls into the Republic may not have the same resource or focus as Northern Ireland - a claim dismissed by the Government.
In a letter to the committee, and copied to the Justice Minister and Garda Commissioner, Mr Hamilton noted that Ireland, unlike the UK, does not have access to the Schengen Information System.
However, he noted that this was due to change.
"While Ireland is not currently a signatory to Schengen, and does not have access to the data base at present, this is due to change," Mr Hamilton wrote.
"At no point have I had any concerns, nor did I wish to convey any concerns, regarding the commitment of An Garda Síochána in preventing and detecting criminals operating on the island of Ireland."
The second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) is a state-of-the-art IT system which consists of three components: a central system, member states' national systems, and a communication infrastructure between the central and national systems.
The integration of SIS II into national systems means that automatic alerts, for example around wanted persons, are generated in real time.
SIS also generates alerts on missing persons, in particular children.
It also generates information on certain types of property, such as banknotes, cars, vans, firearms and identity documents that may have been stolen or lost.
Mr Hamilton had told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that a growing number of criminals operating in Ireland were from abroad. He said this may be because "access into the Republic of Ireland may not have the resource assigned to it or the immigration checks we would have in Northern Ireland".