Acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald informed the Cabinet yesterday of new arrangements which will allow for the sharing of advance passenger information between Ireland and the UK.
Airlines and ferry companies will now be obligated to submit details, including flight/ sailing arrangements as well as passport details, to authorities to tackle the increased threat of terrorism.
Ms Fitzgerald has finalised a statutory instrument which provides the legal basis through which Irish- based carriers, airlines and ferry companies, can provide the UK authorities with advance passenger information data.
In effect, this means that details of all passengers entering the Common Travel Area can be shared, among the appropriate law enforcement and immigration authorities, before they start their journey.
Almost 4.5 million people flew between Dublin and London last year, underscoring its position as one the world’s busiest international air routes.
“This is the culmination of detailed discussions between my department and the UK Home Office. This new system will apply to airline and ferry passengers and I expect it will be operational in a matter of weeks,” Ms Fitzgerald has said.
Ireland and the UK are part of a Common Travel Area. Ms Fitzgerald said this measure is a means of ensuring the benefits of that are maintained.
“Clearly we cannot allow this facility, which is of critical, national, strategic importance, to be abused by anybody who would seek to inflict harm on our peoples and countries.
“It is a critical issue, not just for Ireland, but for all member states that they are in a position to strengthen border controls through the sharing of information on suspect passengers prior to their travel from one jurisdiction to another,” Ms Fitzgerald said.
Ms Fitzgerald added: “We can only defeat the terrorists by closer, practical and sensible measures such as this.”
She reiterated her call to all Irish members of the European Parliament to support early adoption of the Directive on Passenger Name Recognition, an important element in the struggle against terrorism.
Last December, the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties agreed to the directive which permits on a European basis the provision of passenger information to authorities.
Passenger name record data is information provided by passengers and collected by air carriers during reservation and check-in procedures.
A government spokesman said Ms Fitzgerald’s latest legislative move is being done under the provisions of data protection legislation.
The minister underlined Ireland’s commitment to enhancing EU wide co-operation and welcomed the agreement today among ministers to take certain steps to strengthen the fight against terrorism.
Aer Lingus and Ryanair refused to comment on the development or the potential impact the new arrangement will have on passengers.