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'The UK respects Ireland's privacy, there is no question of any mass surveillance'

Documents previously showed that UK authorities had access to opitcal fibre cables that carry a range of data, from internet traffic to telephone calls.

Strategies on Domestic Violence Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Frances Fitzgerald has said there is “no question of any form of mass surveillance” being carried out in Ireland.

It follows new documents being released by whisteblower Edward Snowden that revealed details of how intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom had tapped submarine internet cables used by Ireland.

These optical fibre cables carry a range of data, from internet traffic to telephone calls.

The Government declined to comment on the allegations at the time.

However, Senators mark Daly and Kathryn Reilly raised the issue last night in the Seanad.

pastedimage-98259 A map of submarine cables. Source: SubmarineCableMap.com

Fitzgerald noted that according to reports, if such surveillance is being carried out, “then it is happening within the UK’s own jurisdiction”.

Every country makes its own legal arrangements for lawful interception.
I would expect that any such measures would have a proper legal basis and that the level of interference is proportionate to the aim sought to be achieved.

The Minister noted that Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan had been in touch with the British Embassy on the issue.

Fitzgerald said:

It has been conveyed that it is generally understood that friendly relationships between States include acceptance of the principle that the privacy of communications must be respected.

The Minister also noted confusion surrounding a section of the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act 2008.

“The 2008 Act gives effect to the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters,” she said.

It applies only to mutual assistance in relation to criminal matters. It does not provide for assistance for intelligence gathering purposes.

Read: Government silent as Snowden docs reveal access to Ireland’s internet cables >

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Nicky Ryan

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