Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998: Motion (Resumed)


7:30 pm

Photo of Shane RossShane Ross (Dublin Rathdown, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I congratulate the Tánaiste and the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, on introducing this measure. It is difficult to debate this in the sort of mature way everybody has, particularly because of the history this particular measure has. However, I think we are saying that today it is more about criminal gangs than about paramilitaries. It may be born in paramilitary traditions and lore, and it was necessary in those days, but it is now equally necessary in order to tackle the criminal gangs that are threatening our society.

I said this yesterday, but it is important to underline it. Are we really expected to afford to those who murder and maim the sorts of democratic luxuries they cannot give to anybody else? It is an obscenity that they should be free and able to intimidate not just witnesses, but also jurors. It is simply and utterly wrong. It would be asking far too much of the victims, including the innocent people who have been murdered, the families of the victims and the communities who are threatened if we were to say, "Don't worry; we have some sort of extraordinary liberal democracy here which applies to ordinary citizens, but which we allow to be exploited by people who have no respect for those sorts of democratic values." I long for the day that everybody would be given absolutely equal treatment in the courts. However, that cannot be done for people who do not accept those types of democratic values that the 99% of the population now accept.

While I realise it is difficult to introduce measures of this sort and to repeat them every year, I welcome that the Government has this year decided for the first time not to guillotine a measure of this sort to allow a mature and sensible debate and to put it through even in the face of those difficulties.


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