Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
No shootings or bomb attacks have been claimed by loyalist groups. There has never been an international terrorist attack in the State and dissident republicans are isolated and few. Therefore, the July and September developments seem a reliable indicator of a definitive end to any conditions that could have been used to try to justify a state of emergency. At this stage, surely it can no longer be denied that the continued use of these draconian provisions is untenable.
The Minister sees imaginary threats to the security of the State where it suits his own agenda to do so — for example, to destroy the Centre for Public Inquiry and the good name of its director, Frank Connolly. This explains his desire to hang on to this legislation regardless of the reality on the ground. He cannot, however, deny that parts of the Offences against the State Acts violate international law by becoming a de facto permanent part of the criminal justice framework and by suspending ordinary rights on the pretence of a public emergency threatening the life of the State when no such emergency exists.
The apathy of most of the Opposition on this issue, and the ill-advised, misplaced enthusiasm of others for these measures have negative implications for Irish society. The unreformed Garda Special Branch maintains the power to act as a political police force, systematically harassing citizens engaged in open, legal and democratic political activity.
There are other far-reaching implications. The seepage of this legislation into the permanent legal infrastructure of the State contributes to the momentum of the post-11 September erosion of fundamental rights protection globally. Regimes of permanent emergency violate international laws and must be challenged whenever they appear.
For the sake of the peoples of Ireland and in solidarity with those living in repressive regimes everywhere, every Deputy in this House who values democracy must first vote against the Government motion and then campaign for the repeal of the Offences against the State Acts in their entirety.