National security decision ignored human rights plea

The Government’s decision to exclude national security from the remit of the forthcoming Policing Authority was made despite calls from the State’s human rights body for it to be included.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission told the Government that the authority should oversee “national security policy and practice”.

It said independent oversight of this area was a “requirement” under the European Convention of Human Rights and lessened the risk of the State being found in violation of it.

However, the Government rejected this advice and decided this secretive area of Garda work would not be overseen by the authority, due to be established by the end of the year.

The Government’s decision was reflected in advertisements for the job of Garda commissioner last September and authority chairperson this month.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last month said there was “no question of divesting security from the State”.

Replying to questions from the Irish Examiner as to the reason for this, a spokeswoman for the minister said: “The minister has indicated that the Garda commissioner will be responsible to the Policing Authority in relation to policing matters and to the minister in respect of security matters. This takes account of the fact that the preservation of national security is a primary function of the Government.”

Although national security has no clear definition, it includes countering terrorism, espionage and sabotage, and the protection of parliamentary democracy and the institutions of the State.

The IHREC said: “Issues of national security policing should be overseen by an independent body.”

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