Flanagan proposes renewal of Offences against the State Act

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan today proposed the renewal of provisions in the law aimed at tackling terrorism and organised crime.

These provisions are contained in the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 – legislation introduced following the Omagh bombing in August 1998 – and the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Flanagan highlighted the threat facing the State from terrorism, notably from republican paramilitary groups.

He said: “While the Provisional IRA has given up its campaign of violence, part of its toxic legacy is a rump of violent dissident republicans who vehemently oppose peace and democracy and have spent 20 years trying to destroy the Good Friday Agreement and all it stands for. I am determined that these terrorists will not succeed – the bullet will not prevail over the ballot box.”

He also referred to the ongoing problems faced from serious organised crime: “There is a close relationship between terrorist groups and serious crime gangs – indeed sometimes, they are indistinguishable from one another. No-one can be under any illusion as to the threat that society and the criminal justice system face from organised crime gangs who will stop at nothing in pursuit of their criminal activities.

“These groups generally operate on a cross-border basis both on this island of Ireland and beyond. An Garda Síochána’s close cooperation with the PSNI continues to be vital in our fight against terrorism and serious crime on this island.”

In addition, the Justice Minister stressed the importance of the Special Criminal Court and condemned allegations made against the Court in the Dáil.

“We simply cannot ignore the threat posed to the normal operation of the criminal process, particularly by terrorists but also by organised criminals who have nothing but contempt for the rule of law.”

Mr Flanagan added: “I am deeply concerned about the true motivations of those who repeatedly seek to undermine the Special Criminal Court. The reason a Special Criminal Court exists is because of the threat to jurors lives posed by the most violent and dangerous criminals in the State. The judges that serve on the Court perform courageous public service, presiding without fear or favour, over the prosecution of some of the most dangerous terrorists and ruthless criminals in the State.”

Finally, he noted that the relevant provisions of the 1998 Act and the 2009 Act continue to play an important role in the State’s response to terrorism and organised crime and proposed that the Dáil would agree to their renewal for a period of 12 months.