Laws passed today - but not yet signed into law - give the Government the power to shut down a mobile phone network in the face of a terrorist threat. Nikifor Todorov via Shutterstock

President Higgins asked to sign 'mobile phone shutdown' laws early

The Government wants the new Criminal Justice Bill to be on the statute books before next week’s G8 summit.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS has been asked by the Government to give an early signature to new laws which allow it to shut down mobile phone networks if it fears a terrorist threat.

The Seanad this afternoon agreed to the Government’s plea asking the President, asking him to bypass the usual five-day waiting period before signing the new Criminal Justice Bill into law.

The Government wants the legislation – which finished its passage through the Oireachtas when the Seanad passed it this evening – to have legal effect before next week’s G8 summit in Co Fermanagh.

If the Seanad had not agreed to the request, there was an opportunity that the legislation would not be signed into law until Sunday at the earliest, and next Tuesday at the latest.

This would have meant that the Government’s new power to shut down mobile phone networks – on the basis that terrorists could activate an explosive device by using a mobile.

While next week’s G8 summit takes place inside Northern Ireland, the Republic’s border counties will see a significant increase in security, with 900 extra Gardaí being deployed to the region to deal with any security issues that may arise.

The Constitution allows the Government to ask the President to sign legislation an emergency basis, bypassing the usual waiting period of between five and seven days, as long as the Seanad gives its blessing.

More recently, the device was used to ask the President to sign legislation liquidating the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation – the former Anglo Irish Bank – on the morning after it was approved by the Dáil and Seanad in emergency overnight sessions.

The device does not prejudice the President’s right to query whether the proposals are in line with the Constitution. Historically, virtually all legislation sent to the President for its early signature has been signed into law without any significant delay.

Read: Mobile phone networks could be shut off during G8 due to terror threats

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