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New measures Government introducing new laws to protect Irish elections amid Russian interference fears

The legislation will also impose new obligations on tech companies requiring them to red-flag any suspicious activity on their platforms.

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Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (Niall Carson/PA)

The Government is introducing new laws to protect the integrity of Ireland's elections in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien is bringing a memo to Cabinet tomorrow outlining new measures aimed at protecting Irish elections from foreign interference.

Mr O'Brien is planning to bulk up election reform legislation to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot seek to influence Irish voters, which he has been accused of doing in other countries such as during the US presidential election and the UK's Brexit referendum.

World leaders are also bracing themselves for a wave of cyber attacks from Russia after Mr Putin took down internet services in several parts of the Ukraine ahead of the invasion.

The Cabinet will be told by Mr O'Brien that amendments will be made to the Electoral Reform Bill to introduce more oversight of elections in Ireland.

He has asked Attorney General Paul Gallagher and a team of election law specialists and political scientists to strengthen the country's election integrity.

Proposals being examined include strengthening the role of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) by tasking the agency with identifying malicious actors intervening or attempting to intervene in the electoral process.

The legislation will also impose new obligations on tech companies requiring them to red-flag any suspicious activity on their platforms.

The soon-to-be established Electoral Commission will be asked to identify and inform the government in real time of threats to the election process.

The amendments to the Electoral Reform Bill will be discussed at Cabinet tomorrow and brought forward at committee stage.

Russia was accused of interfering with Ukraine's elections in 2019 which saw Volodymyr Zelenskyy elected as president.

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Ukraine security agencies said Russia sought to spread disinformation about candidates while also seeking to undermine the integrity of the electoral process through claims the election was rigged.

The Kremlin's disinformation campaign included false claims of Nazism spreading in Ukraine and accusing the Ukrainian army of being involved in cannibalism and occultism.

Russia was also accused of compromising Ukraine's Central Election Commission's network ahead of a vote in 2014.

Russia has denied interfering with elections in Ukraine. However, Ukraine was hit by an onslaught of cyber attacks in the weeks before the Russian invasion.

In 2019, the European Commission said there was evidence proving Russia sought to interfere with European Parliament elections.

The EU has drafted a range of measures and established agencies aimed at cracking down on misinformation.

The Government's Electoral Reform Bill will see the introduction of a long-promised independent Electoral Commission in Ireland, which will be responsible for regulating online political advertising in the run-up to elections.

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