On 31 May, Minister for Justice Simon Harris signed the European Union (Online Dissemination of Terrorist Content) (Designation of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána as a Competent Authority) Regulations 2023 (the Regulations) into law. The Regulations designate An Garda Síochána as:

  1. the Irish competent authority for issuing removal orders in accordance with Article 3 of the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation 2021/784 (the TCO); and
  2. the Irish contact point for clarification and feedback in relation to the removal orders that it issues.

Article 3 TCO provides that a competent authority of each EU Member State has the power to issue a removal order that requires hosting service providers (HSPs) to either remove or disable access to terrorist content in all Member States (Removal Order). On receipt of a Removal Order, the HSP must act as soon as possible to comply with it, but no later than within one hour of receipt of the Removal Order. On actioning a Removal Order, the HSP is required to inform An Garda Síochána (as the relevant competent authority) that the terrorist content has been removed or that access to it has been disabled. 

When signing the Regulations, Minister Harris said that “as Ireland’s policing and security service, An Garda Síochána has the necessary expertise, international contacts and experience to carry out this function in an effective manner.

Under Article 12(1) TCO, Member States can designate multiple competent authorities for oversight and enforcement of the TCO. An Garda Síochána is the competent authority responsible for Removal Orders under Article 3 TCO only. Therefore, the Regulations require that An Garda Síochána must also notify the authority that is competent for imposing penalties for infringements of the TCO (i.e. Coimisiún na Meán), if it believes that a HSP has infringed the TCO by:

  • not acting expeditiously to remove terrorist content within one hour of receipt of a Removal Order; or
  • failing to inform the Gardaí of the removal or disabling of the terrorist content and the details relating to such removal/disabling without due delay.

As reported in an earlier blog post, the Irish Government plans to designate Coimisiún na Meán as the competent authority for enforcement under the TCO. It was previously announced that the Irish government intends to introduce amending legislation to the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 to allow for Coimisiún na Meán’s powers to be used for the enforcement of the TCO. However, there remains no indication as of yet on when this amending legislation will be put forward before the Oireachtas.