Address to Seanad Éireann by Mr. Seán Kelly MEP

Tuesday, 30th April 2013

I welcome Mr. Seán Kelly, MEP. There are many aspects of his work that I would like to raise and commend him on. Perhaps I shall limit myself to crediting him for his work on the committee called Delegations for Relations with the United States. Senator Cummins mentioned the EU-US trade agreement and a number of Senators are following its progress. I also commend Mr. Kelly on his valuable contribution as rapporteur regarding the Commission’s proposals to reform the EU data protection rules and to examine how the continent can have uniformity and introduce one data protection law for one continent. I have read the proposals with great interest.

I was heartened to hear Mr. Kelly speak so passionately today, and earlier this year, about youth unemployment and the youth guarantee. As he will know, Ireland has the fourth highest rate of young people not in education, employment or training in the EU, also known as the NEET figure. He expressed the need to tackle the monumental toll that emigration is taking on young people today. I commend all that he has done to support the youth guarantee. I would be heartened to hear his opinion on the draft recommendations establishing the youth guarantee that were adopted by the Council last week. Does he feel that the measure goes far enough?

With regard to his work on the Industry, Research and Technology Committee and the Regional Committee on Data Protection in Europe, what role will the digital agenda play in Ireland’s recovery? I know that he has touched on the subject in some way.

Mr. Kelly raised the issue of data protection and talked about the importance of balancing rights. Therefore, I wish to raise a people protection issue. Perhaps it is more of a child protection issue but we have discussed it in the House. I refer to child abuse material on the Internet which is an issue of considerable concern to myself and several Senators. As a State we have an obligation to protect real children from real abuse in the real world. The Independent group tabled a motion on 29 February 2012 that called on the Government to block all child abuse material, irrespective of its jurisdiction or origin. At present we block material from within Ireland but it should be blocked, irrespective of jurisdiction. The Minster for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, said that he would consider the proposal in the context of the planned sexual offences Bill. However, there has been no urgency in bringing the Bill before us so I look to the EU to see what it can do. Several member states have introduced such blocking of the Internet.

I note and acknowledge the European Parliament’s written declaration on highlighting the global dimension of the fight against online child sexual abuse content. I thank Mr. Kelly for signing the declaration earlier this month. As noted in the declaration, the cross-border nature of most online child sexual abuse content shows that strong international co-operation is necessary. What does Mr. Kelly feel can be done to facilitate this co-operation to remove the content at source and address its online distribution networks? I believe that we should block it but some people will counter my belief by citing Internet freedom. However, each digital image is an image of a crime scene. We have a policy to block drugs entering the country. It does not solve the problem but acts as a deterrent. In the same way we should block all child abuse in Ireland as happens in several EU member states. I would welcome hearing Mr. Kelly’s opinions and I hope that he will support me on the issue.

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