Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion.
Jim O'Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael)
I was absolutely outraged to learn recently of statements by a Member of this House indicating he would not be prepared to make such information available to the Garda Síochána. That Member has a case to answer if he is presenting himself to the public as a democrat, a person who has converted entirely to the democratic system. We all have a duty and responsibility to ensure those killers who remain at large are brought to justice.
For the reasons I outlined, it is clearly necessary to continue the provisions of this Act for at least a further year. The Minister has detailed the report on the operation of the Act and provided details which add further corroboration to the case for the renewal of the provisions. Nevertheless, we can all look forward hopefully and envisage that the day will dawn when this type of legislation is no longer necessary. That is an aspiration of mine. I would like to see a time when the compelling factors I detailed for the renewal and maintenance of emergency legislation of this type no longer apply. The concept of emergency legislation is far from desirable. Ideally, we should aim for a situation where all legislation is reasonable and responsible enough to stand the test of time and retain its relevance. On the other hand, however, we must accept that we have not yet attained an ideal world and that we must in the meantime retain this emergency legislation.
A related issue that the Minister might deal with in his response relates to an announcement he made last year of the need to establish a second division of the Special Criminal Court because of the delays in cases being heard in that court. Have those delays been rectified and what is the situation in regard to the establishment of a second criminal court? We should ideally work towards the gradual phasing out of such courts rather than their extension. In the context of the peace process and what appeared to be some reduction in criminal terrorist activity from some of the organisations involved, I was somewhat surprised that there was apparently a need for an extension of the court processes for dealing with the perpetrators of such crimes.
I very much support the renewal of the provisions of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 for one more year from 30 June. We will continue to stand by these provisions as long as they are necessary, while looking forward to the day when that is no longer the case. We will do what we can in the meantime to provide the institutions of the State, particularly the Garda Síochána, with the necessary resources and instruments to enable them to maintain peace in this State and to co-operate in so doing with other authorities on this island. These provisions have a role to play in that regard and Fine Gael fully supports their renewal.