THE GOVERNMENT has been granted the right to shut down Ireland’s mobile phone networks if it fears they could be used to engineer a terrorist attack.
The Criminal Justice Act 2013 was signed into law by President Higgins yesterday, according to a note on the Áras an Úachtaráin website.
The legislation grants the Minister for Justice and Equality the power to temporarily shut down a mobile phone network in a given area, if it is thought that a mobile phone service could be used in the mechanics of a terrorist event.
For example, an explosive device could be fitted with a detonator incorporating a mobile phone, which could be activated if someone tries to call that phone.
The legislation completed its passage through the Oireachtas on Tuesday, when it was passed by the Seanad – which also signed off on a Government request that President Michael D Higgins bypass the usual five-day waiting period before signing the Bill into law.
Had the usual waiting period been observed, the legislation may not have been signed into law until Sunday at the earliest – by which time it may have been too late to frustrate any possible terrorist plans targeting the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh in Northern Ireland which begins on Monday.
A massive security perimeter has already been built around the Lough Erne Hotel, five miles outside Enniskillen, where the leaders of some of the world’s largest economies will meet to discuss global affairs.
The resort is about 11 miles to the north-east of the border with the Republic, meaning there is an outside possibility of being able to pick up coverage from one of the Republic’s four mobile phone operators.
The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has given its informal blessing to the laws, saying the power is “proportionate” as it is subject to strict time limits, must be of direct material necessity, and can only be authorised at the highest levels of government.
It expressed concern, however, that the plans could leave mobile phone users without the ability to dial 112 and contact the emergency services.