New law will allow Government to shut down phone networks

Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Legislation is to be introduced to allow the Justice Minister order mobile phone companies to shut down networks to prevent terrorist attacks.

The laws are to be introduced in the coming week by the Justice Minister ahead of next month's G8 summit in the North.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that the reason for amending the laws is the fear mobile phones could be used to trigger bomb attacks at the summit of world leaders in Fermanagh.

"The upcoming G8 summit in Co Fermanagh has brought a particular reality for the necessity for this legislation," he said.

"It’s possible that terrorist groups may try to use the occasion of the summit, to the very least, garner publicity for themselves.

"This is not to ignore the very real danger of the loss of life is such a device was successfully detonated."

Eight world leaders will jet in for next month’s G8 summit in Co Fermanagh, including US president Barack Obama, who will also use the trip to make his first visit to Belfast.

Details of First Lady Michelle Obama’s travel will be announced at a later date but she is widely expected to return to the Republic and visit her husband’s ancestral homeland in Moneygall, Co Offaly.

Other politicians to attend the G8 conference will include German chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

It is believed the meeting on June 17 and 18 will generate up to £40m (€47m) for the local economy.

Mr Shatter said the summit, at the Lough Erne golf resort on the outskirts of Enniskillen, created a real necessity for legislation to give the Government the power to ask phone companies to cut or limit signals.

He revealed the plan as he announced changes to the new Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Bill.

“The purpose of these amendments will be to allow for direction to issue to mobile phone service providers to cease service provision in a limited area in order to prevent death or damage to property,” the Minister said.

“The provision will contain safeguards to ensure that any interference to services is limited to the extent necessary to deal with the threat.”

Elsewhere, a major public march and rally will be held in Belfast the weekend before the G8 summit.

Trade unions and campaign groups like Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth are organising a Fairer World Festival to coincide with the event.

Mr Shatter announced the amendments to the new legislation – which is yet to be passed into law – at a parliamentary committee meeting.

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