Both Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and interim Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said they hoped other companies would follow suit.
The minister and the commissioner were announcing the establishment of a memorandum of understanding with UPC. It will prevent access to a list of websites identified by Gardaí as containing child abuse imagery. The minister and commissioner cited privacy and data protection rights as preventing laws legally obliging companies from having such imagery.
UPC is one of 28 members of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland. Other members include BT, Eircom, E mobile, Google, Meteor, O2 and Vodafone.
Ms O’Sullivan said there were “ongoing discussions” with the ISPAI to get other companies on board, while Ms Fitzgerald said she “hoped other companies would follow suit”.
The MoU comes as the deadline approaches for the implementation of an EU directive obliging countries to identify and remove child abuse material from servers in their jurisdiction.
Under the memorandum, when a UPC customer accesses material on any website listed by gardaí they will be restricted and an advisory message will be displayed outlining the reasons why.
Ms Fitzgerald said it was a “credit” to UPC that they were the first company to agree a mechanism with gardaí, which she said would “lessen” access.
She said the trade in child abuse imagery was a “heinous crime” and a recent conference she attended in Washington highlighted that it was “an ever growing phenomenon.”
She said the forthcoming Sexual Offences Bill would strength legislation,. but said laws to block such material would require a different type of legislation.