Seanad debates

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2014: Second Stage


Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

6:25 pm

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I am very pleased to have this opportunity to initiate the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) (Amendment) Bill in this House, of which I am a former Member. It is a very significant and timely piece of legislation. The Bill has two main objectives. First, to amend the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences)(Amendment) Act 2005 in order to give effect to Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA which amended Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism. The framework decision is covered by the Lisbon treaty and as such must be transposed into Irish law by 1 December next. Second, the Bill will allow Ireland to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism in due course.

The Bill creates three new offences in relation to terrorist activity which are covered by the amending framework decision and also the Council of Europe convention to which Ireland is already a signatory. The three new offences are: public provocation to commit a terrorist offence; recruitment for terrorism; and training for terrorism. This Bill shows the Government's commitment to combat terrorism, in all its guises. The scourge of terrorism is unfortunately more evident in the world than ever and I am sure that Senators will appreciate the importance of tackling it at source so as to be able to deal, when necessary, with incitement, recruitment and training for terrorist activities. The legislation will also enable Ireland to further fulfil our international commitments in the area of counter-terrorism and to stand united with our European colleagues, and indeed democratic nations across the globe, in combating terrorist crimes and protecting innocent citizens everywhere. Those who would threaten the lives of ordinary people by engaging in acts of terrorism, whether on this island or elsewhere, must be brought to justice and know that the international community will not tolerate their activity and will take all possible action to prevent and punish it.

This legislation is being introduced at a time when international terrorism is, unfortunately, very much to the fore. It builds on an existing body of Irish legislation that is aimed at combating terrorist activity and ensures that there are no gaps in our laws by dealing with the more subtle and indirect aspects of modern terrorism. Existing legislation, such as the Offences against the State Acts and the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, the latter which this Bill updates, contain offence provisions which cover a broad range of terrorist and terrorist-related activities. The 2005 Act incriminates terrorist offences as a separate category of crime and contains lists of offences which, with the requisite intent, would constitute terrorist offences. Penalties for such offences are severe and, if sufficiently serious, include life imprisonment.

Terrorism is a constant threat to the fundamental values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. There is considerable concern across Europe and elsewhere at the phenomenon of individuals travelling to conflict areas in the Middle East and the consequential threat posed to national security. The compilation of accurate statistics in relation to the numbers of actual foreign fighters is problematic due to the secretive nature of those travelling and the many and circuitous routes some individuals take in reaching their destination of choice. There has been widespread reporting on this matter in the media, both in Ireland and abroad. An American television news network has, for instance, stated that Ireland has one of the highest per capita numbers of foreign fighters in the world at 30, from a Muslim population of around 50,000. These reports are not entirely accurate. It should be pointed out that the collation of these numbers began in or around the time of the onset of the Arab Spring and within that number are individuals who travelled to Libya and other Arab states to take part in the popular uprisings there. Within that number are some who travelled for humanitarian reasons. In addition, some of these are known to have returned and there have been three known fatalities among that number. Accordingly, it would not be appropriate to say that 30 Irish citizens are aligned with IS or other groups similar in nature, such as al-Qaeda.

The phenomenon of individuals travelling from all over Europe to the fighting has affected the majority of European states and is one to which Ireland gave priority during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013. In fact, this discussion on foreign fighters will feature again this week at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg and indeed as a priority topic at any international gatherings of justice Ministers at present. Ireland was successful during the Presidency in gaining the agreement of the member states to carry out a review of the EU strategy for countering radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. A primary point of focus in this review was the foreign fighter issue and a number of initiatives at EU level have been developed to combat this phenomenon, including community relations initiatives, media campaigns, enhanced tracking of movements, engagement with third countries - notably Turkey - and engagement with Internet service providers to curb radical online content.

It is widely accepted that this problem cannot be resolved by security-related measures alone and that a key element in addressing it is a programme of pro-active engagement with the communities most affected. Meaningful engagement with communities is an essential part of this process in order to avoid any sense of profiling or the stigmatising of sectors of the population. The protection of fundamental rights and recognition from the outset that the majority of people wish to go about their daily lives in peace, and to play a productive part in society, is enshrined within that engagement.

The Garda Síochána, through its racial, intercultural and diversity office, operates a policy of continuous engagement with communities deemed at risk.

While the threat level to Ireland from international terrorism is considered low, we must remain vigilant, especially where the possibility of lone-wolf type actions witnessed elsewhere in Europe are concerned. The random and unpredictable nature of such attacks makes them a particular matter for concern. It is very important, therefore, that we have all the relevant tools at our disposal to deal with terrorist threats, in all their forms and at all stages, including incitement and other preparatory activities. By criminalising the terrorist-linked activities of provocation, recruitment and training, the legislation before the House further strengthens our hand in this regard.

I will now focus and elaborate on the three main elements of the Bill, namely, the three new offences created under its provisions. The Bill provides that the offence of public provocation to commit a terrorist offence will be committed when a person distributes or otherwise makes available - by whatever means of communication - a message to the public with the intention of encouraging, directly or indirectly, the commission of a terrorist activity. A person convicted of this offence will be liable, on summary conviction, to a class A fine - that is, up to €5,000 - or imprisonment for up to one year, or both and on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.

A person will be guilty of the offence of recruitment for terrorism if he or she recruits or attempts to recruit another person to engage in terrorist activity or other offences contained in section 6 of the Offences against the State Act 1998, section 21 or 21A of the Offences against the State Act 1939 or section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1976. A person convicted of this offence will be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both. The offence of training for terrorism will be committed where a person provides instruction or training in the skills of making or using firearms or explosives, nuclear material, biological, chemical or prohibited weapons or other such weapons or noxious or hazardous substances as the Minister may prescribe in the knowledge that the skills provided are intended to be used for the purpose of terrorist activity. This offence also covers training in techniques or methods for use in terrorist activity. A person convicted of this offence will be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine or imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.

The Bill contains 12 sections and two Schedules, which append the aforementioned amending Council framework decision and Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. Section 1 simply clarifies that references to the principal Act relate to the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005, which is being amended here.

Section 2 is a standard provision allowing for the making of ministerial regulations. It amends the 2005 Act by inserting a new section 3A into that Act. The power to make regulations is required, for example, in order that the Minister may, if deemed necessary, introduce regulations adding to the list of weapons and techniques or methods covered by the training offence outlined in section 6.

Section 3 amends section 4 of the 2005 Act as follows: replacing the definition of "framework decision" in the principal Act with a new definition that includes reference to the 2008 framework decision - for ease of reference, the text of both framework decisions will be appended to the Act; replacing the definition of "terrorist-linked activity" with a new definition that includes the three new offences covered in the Bill; inserting definitions of the "Prevention of Terrorism Convention" and the three new offences; designating section 4 of the Act, as it stands, as subsection (1) of section 4; and adding two new subsections, (2) and (3). Subsection (2) provides that a terrorist-linked activity may be committed, wholly or partially, by electronic means, such as over the Internet. This provision is being specifically included following consultation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and reflects the use, or perhaps more accurately, misuse, of modern technology in the context of terrorist activity. Subsection (3) provides that a terrorist-linked activity may occur even if an offence of terrorist activity under section 6(1)(a) of the principal Act has not actually been committed. This provision is in line with the amending framework decision and the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and is necessary in order to ensure that a person can be prosecuted for any of the three new offences where no terrorist activity actually took place on foot of provocation, recruitment or training.

Section 4 creates the new offence of "public provocation to commit a terrorist offence" which I described in my introduction to the Bill. Section 5 provides for the new offence of "recruitment for terrorism", which I also outlined earlier.

Section 6 creates the new offence of "training for terrorism", to which I also referred earlier. This section provides for the making of ministerial regulations, if considered necessary, to add to the list of weapons or substances already prescribed in the section and also to cover other possible techniques or methods that could be used for the purpose of committing a terrorist activity. Before making such regulations the Minister will be obliged to consult with the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, the Minister for Defence and such other Minister of the Government as he or she considers appropriate, having regard to the weapons, substances, techniques or methods concerned. The section also sets out the issues to which the Minister must have regard to when making the regulations. Furthermore, it clarifies the meanings of certain terms used in the section.

Section 7 amends section 6(1)(a)(ii) of the principal Act to provide that it is an offence to attempt to commit the offences of recruitment and training but not that of public provocation. This is in line with the amending framework decision and the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and reflects the fact that the offence of public provocation, as defined - or elements of - is more conceptually difficult to attempt. In addition, the notion of intent is already covered in the public provocation offence as framed.

Section 8 sets out the fines and penalties the three new offences will attract and amends section 7(1) of the principal Act to include a new paragraph (e) to provide for this. The penalty for the public provocation offence on summary conviction will be a class A fine or up to 12 months in prison, or both.

Section 9 relates to evidence of Irish citizenship in the context of legal proceedings relating to an offence and amends section 44(2) of the principal Act by providing that it will be an officer of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, rather than an officer of that Department, who will certify that a passport was issued and that it will be an officer of the Minister for Justice and Equality who will certify that the person has not ceased to be an Irish citizen. This is a relatively minor, technical amendment which properly reflects the administrative and functional roles of the two Departments concerned in respect of citizenship.

Section 10 inserts the amending framework decision on combating terrorism and the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism into the principal Act.

Section 11 amends Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the principal Act. The latter lists the offences for the purpose of the definition of terrorist activity. Paragraph (a) provides for the insertion of a new paragraph 7A to add any offence under section 2 of the Maritime Security Act 2004 to the list of terrorist activity. These offences relate to ships and fixed platforms. The amendment at paragraph (b) adds offences under section 2 of the Biological Weapons Act 2011 which relate to the development or use of biological weapons for a hostile purpose. The amendment at paragraph (c) adds the offence of financing of terrorism under section 13 of the principal Act. This latter amendment is required to meet the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism requirement that offences under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which has been ratified by Ireland, are included in the definition of "terrorist activity". Section 12 is a standard provision.

I am pleased to commend the Bill to the House.

6:35 pm

Photo of Denis O'DonovanDenis O'Donovan (Fianna Fail)
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I welcome the Minister. Those of us on this side of the House will be wholeheartedly supporting the legislation, which is primarily designed to prevent Irish citizens from returning from foreign conflicts and sheltering here. The Bill is based on the EU Council framework decision agreed in 2008 when the previous Fianna Fáil-led Government was in power. We are calling on the current Government to be vigilant with regard to the possible return of combatants claiming Irish citizenship from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and to ensure that these individuals are suitable for reintegration into Irish society. This must be done in order to prevent a radicalisation of citizens here.

It is ironic that on several occasions I have called for a debate on the basic protection of, and respect for, the human dignity of Christians in places like Syria and Iraq. Apparently, in such places, to be a Christian, or any other religion than that of the jihadists’ extremist view of their own religion, is a crime. If one does not have their tunnel-vision approach, one is likely to be exterminated. We have seen the appalling beheadings of US, French and English citizens, some of them voluntary aid workers in the region. ISIL is a radical extreme group and whatever needs to be done internationally to stop this uprising must be done.
In some ways, the Bill probably does not go far enough. There should be a united approach to this in Europe. The difficulty is that with a European passport one could have these combatants leaving, say, France or Holland, but coming back to hide away in the Wicklow Mountains or on a remote island off the coast. A prima faciecase can be made that anyone travelling to the conflict zones in Syria or Iraq these times is involved in supporting terrorism. Who would travel there now, unless they are providing aid to victims and those made homeless there? Those who took part in ISIL should be excluded from entry into this country. I hope all other European countries will be as vigilant. The Minister referred to the numbers of Irish foreign fighters being 30 but this is irrelevant. The point of principle is that in this country their religion, as well as other religions be they Jewish, Protestant or Catholic, is protected and they are free to practise it under the Constitution but then they see fit to travel abroad to execute Christians and members of other religions. That is a flagrant breach of that principle.
Fianna Fáil will support this legislation. I hope it is not misinterpreted that this is for some other reason. The reasons are crystal clear and I wish the Bill a speedy passage.

6:45 pm

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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I thank the Minister for initiating this legislation in the Seanad. It is always a good day for the Seanad when a Minister deems it fit and appropriate to do so. I encourage other Ministers to avail of that opportunity as Dáil time can be stretched and vying for slots for it can be competitive. We are always happy to initiate legislation here, particularly in the justice area.

This Bill gives effect to an important component of the Lisbon treaty which we all worked hard in a difficult campaign to get over the line. I welcome Senator O’Donovan’s constructive comments on the Bill. The House is united in countering terrorism and eliminating the threat it poses. If the need for this was more cogently evident, it is what is going on around the world now. We see the degrading beheading of aid workers who went to conflict zones wearing their hearts on their sleeves and with no agenda but to help people. This is something ordinary citizens cannot comprehend.

As a society, we have a responsibility to our citizens to ensure we equip An Garda Síochána and our Army to deal with these types of scenarios. Unfortunately, the world is increasingly becoming a very dangerous place. Terrorism knows no boundaries and certainly does not respect them. While this country is reasonably terrorism-free, it does not mean it will continue. We had a troubled history up until a decade ago when incredible acts of terrorism were committed by Irish people against Irish people. Thankfully, that is resolving itself.

The world is becoming a global village. Recruitment of citizens and young people to foreign terrorist groups can occur through Facebook and the Internet. This did not exist 20 years ago and precautions now need to be taken to prevent it. At least, an offence will be created for recruiting for terrorism, even if it is just an attempt. The measures proposed in this legislation are timely and important. I agree, however, with Senator O’Donovan’s sentiment that it might not go far enough. When the Minister, her advisers and officials feel it is appropriate to firm up and amend terrorism legislation, this House will be very open to initiating any further measures required to do so. Every Member has zero tolerance of terrorism or the conditions that will create an environment that will allow it flourish, even to a tiny degree. While we always have to be cautious, if it is necessary to make such legislation more punitive, then we would open to doing so. I look forward to the speedy passage of this Bill through the House and I sincerely hope it will get the unanimous backing of Seanad Éireann.

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein)
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While not relevant to this Bill, on this afternoon’s Order of Business several Members raised the issue of the President’s visits to asylum centres and found it strange he was not allowed visit one in Athlone recently. The Leader will raise this matter with the Minister’s office and I would be happy if she could look into it.

Senator Conway often tells the House about Shannon Airport. Last week, the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions visited the airport on foot of a petition made by Shannonwatch regarding US army planes that land there. We were given an interesting tour of the whole facility and met with gardaí there. There will be deliberations about the discussions we had there.

Sometimes in Ireland we think we are terrorism-free and international terrorism will not land on our shores. The visit brought home to us how vulnerable places like our airports are to the threat of terrorist attack. People have made the point that several civilians have made their way on to runways at some of our airports in the past. If a civilian can do that, could an international terrorist with a mind to do damage do so too? We put this to the gardaí at Shannon who reassured us they do the best they can. They did feel, however, that in some areas there is a lacuna in legislation and their powers are limited. I am sure the committee will come back to the Minister on how gardaí feel they cannot go on to some airplanes, not just US ones, and search them.

This Bill amends the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 by creating three new offences to give effect to two Council framework decisions from 2008, namely, the public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. While Sinn Féin broadly supports this Bill, it contains several points about which we are concerned and on which we will seek clarification and reassurance from the Minister.

Why has it taken the Irish Government so long to transpose this piece of legislation? It seems highly unusual that the transposition of something like this could take such a long time and perhaps that could be clarified. My party's main concern with this Bill concerns the definition of terrorism as it is formulated in the Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA. It is a very broad definition that could include virtually every act that has some element of organisation or planning. This seems unworkable to us and is something about which we would be quite concerned. By reiterating the framework decision definition, the Bill legitimately raises the question as to whether this instrument has a built-in function creep in order not only to combat terrorism but to extend the definition in such a manner as to cover most public order situations and more common criminal acts as they apply under national law.

I also want to speak briefly about the fact that while there is a definite need for cross-border co-operation in this area, even international co-operation, criminal sanctions and definitions should be the sole realm of the member state. We do not want to hand over this type of power to Europe. Such issues should be for member states alone to deal with. We do not want to see a situation where the EU becomes involved in this area. Sinn Féin would like to see greater checks and balances in the Bill to protect against this.

Finally, I wish to briefly mention another concern we have, namely, data protection. Any data collected under this legislation should have to comply with standards in the Twenty-six Counties and not those of any other member state. We do not want to see a situation where data being shared in good faith leaves the hands of another member state when it is no longer under the standard under which it left Ireland. We simply cannot afford to see an abuse of power by governments in this area. The clearest example of this in recent years came when Frank McBrearty tried to enter the US with his family and was refused by the US authorities. Mr. McBrearty was refused entry on the grounds that he had a conviction for assault. This was despite the fact that the conviction had been overturned and he was found to be innocent of the charges levelled against him. This raises very serious concerns about how data on individuals is retained in this country and then exchanged with agencies from other jurisdictions. This is something we will seek to strengthen on Committee Stage. In the broad sense, we support this Bill. Beidh muid ag tabhairt tacaíochta dó, ach tiocfaimid chun cinn le leasuithe in am tráth.

6:55 pm

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)
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I welcome the Minister to the House and express my support for the legislation in keeping with others. We have all noted that its purpose is to transpose into Irish law a Council framework decision from 2008 which amends the 2002 Council framework decision on combating terrorism. I note that the decision must be transposed by 1 December so we are not out of time on it, although I note Senator Ó Clochartaigh's words about delay. However, this is often a feature of transposing directives and we are better off doing it more carefully.

The debate so far has focused on the issue of international terrorism. The Minister pointed out that this is a time when international terrorism is, unfortunately, very much to the fore. However, we should all be mindful in debating this that we still have a great deal of issues on our own island. I noted that the last debate we had in this House on similar legislation was in June 2014 on the renewal of the provisions of the Offences against the State Act. At that point, I noted that there were 30 terrorist-related attacks in Northern Ireland in 2013 and that even by June of this year, five were recorded. I know that there have more since. One must bear that in mind as well. While the focus is currently on the phenomenon of international terrorism, particularly on recruitment in Europe for international terrorism, we should be alive to the threat of terrorism here as well.

However, the particular threat posed by organisations like ISIS or the so-called Islamic State is extremely serious. There is no doubt about this. Anyone who is watching the current attack on Kobane and the Kurdish fighters' resistance there, and who has been aware of the barbaric treatment of civilians and the persecution of people of other religions and women by this organisation, can see that this is a particularly heinous threat that is spilling over the Turkish border from Syria and also in Iraq. There are real questions to be asked about how this organisation has spread so quickly and has made so many military gains so quickly. There are huge questions about who is funding it and supplying it with the heavy artillery we are seeing. We see how the Kurdish fighters are hopelessly under-equipped by comparison with ISIS.

There is also the issue of recruits from Europe. There are a good many reports about recruits from European countries going to fight with ISIS in their thousands. I am glad that, as the Minister pointed out, the figure of 30 from Ireland is inappropriate and has been inaccurately reported. The Minister has pointed out that it would not be appropriate to say that 30 Irish citizens are aligned with ISIS or other groups. We should be conscious that many people travel to Syria or Iraq because they have family there. They may wish to help or engage in humanitarian efforts there so I think people are jumping to certain conclusions. It is important that we make that point.

I am also glad that the Minister has acknowledged that the problem of international terrorism and foreign fighters being recruited from European countries cannot be solved through security-related measures alone and that this legislation introducing as it does three new offences is clearly not the main strand of preventing the recruitment of foreign fighters for terrorist activities abroad. Certainly proactive engagement with communities is essential. I know this has been recognised in the UK as well and is seen as the best way to counter the threat of recruitment and radicalisation of different communities. The Minister has rightly pointed out the work of the Garda racial, intercultural and diversity office. It is important that this work be supported.

The three offences referred to by the Minister - those of public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism - really build on existing legislation from the 2005 Act. The Minister has given very clear interpretations of those. The definitions are derived largely from the EU legislation. The definition of terrorist-linked activity is very broad. I am glad that it is confined to acts that would constitute an offence in the State. I think this is important. It is like the provision around the European arrest warrant or extradition. There would be an existing criminalisation.

I have often been critical in this House where I thought legislation to deal with terrorism went too far on a procedural basis to change the normal criminal justice procedures and, for example, to provide for enhanced powers for the Special Criminal Court. I know this legislation does not do that. It is creating three substantive new offences so it is not of that nature. I have always welcomed the opportunity to review the provisions of the Offences against the State Act. It has been very useful to us over the years to look at how many times different provisions have been used. We all hope very much that the three new offences here will not be used and that we will not need to use them but certainly it might be useful in a year's time to have some report laid before the Houses as to the number of times they have been used. It would be useful if we could find out whether people had even been arrested under them. That is part of the parliamentary scrutiny of provisions like this that are terrorist-related. I know it has been a really important exercise with the Offences against the State legislation.

Photo of Frances FitzgeraldFrances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
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I thank all Senators for their contributions to the debate on this legislation and their support for it. I thank Senators O'Donovan, Ó Clochartaigh, Bacik and Conway for their contributions and their broad support for the Bill. As we pass this legislation, we can stand resolutely alongside our colleagues in other EU member states in combating the threat of terrorism, which has evolved with the use of modern technology and, as the Bill outlines, the kind of preparatory activity such as incitement, recruitment and training. It is really important that these are named very clearly and also if they are used through social media. This is quite advanced legislation. Perhaps it is one of the advantages of coming a little late to this even though, as Senator Bacik noted, we are still within the timeframe. It is important that we have been able to include that in the legislation. The Bill supports ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. That treaty can be implemented not just by EU member states but across all countries across continental Europe.

It is a global phenomenon and we have had a number of resolutions from the UN in recent times relating to terrorism and the sort of activities that it would like to see members states tackling that are worth mentioning. For example, there was a resolution very recently relating to foreign fighters. That put much emphasis on criminalising the recruitment of people and the prosecution of recruitment and training so we have a re-emphasis at UN level on the issues we are dealing with in this legislation. It is very important that the Bill makes an offence to engage in public provocation or recruitment or training for terrorism.

I wish to make a few other points. The UN resolution highlights the importance of international border security, including combating the use of fraudulent travel documents and enhanced passenger screening at airports. We are taking these matters seriously and in the context of the common travel area we must examine this issue. Yesterday, I signed an agreement with the UK authorities that enhances our co-operation. It means that we will now use biometric screening as we develop e-gates at Dublin Airport, which will be used more comprehensively towards the end of this year and throughout next year. That means that biometric data can now be used for passengers arriving here, which will make quite a difference. It will be part of the Irish visa application process. The new SSA cutting-edge automated systems are being put in place also. That will ensure that we are effectively doing what the UN resolution sought in this area with a view to combating terrorism.

We are committed in this regard and it is good to have cross-party support for the legislation. I note the points that Senators have made concerning terrorist acts, which unfortunately still continue on this island. We need to do all we can to ensure that that does not continue and that the law is used appropriately concerning such terrorist offences.

A purely law-enforcement approach will not deal with this issue, so it is important to work on preventive aspects also. The best prevention is to stop people getting involved in anti-social, violent or terrorist activity in the first place.

Dealing with terrorist activities is very different from discouraging or suppressing freedom of speech or the expression of opinions and political ideologies. In a democratic world, it is vital to protect the right to express views and beliefs, even though they may be outside the mainstream. Journalists and others are free to express their opinions and voice their commentaries. Such fundamental human rights should not be compromised, nor does this legislation do so. It is important to mention the latter point in the course of this debate.

The Bill ensures, however, that there are no gaps in our laws which could be exploited by unscrupulous people. We have seen activity in Belgium recently where people died in a terrorist attack; we have also seen it in Madrid and London. We want to ensure that there is no hiding place in a democratic society for people who would use terrorist activities to threaten the democratic order.

This is a timely piece of legislation and I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate. Many important and useful points have been made and I look forward to going through the Bill on Committee Stage.

Question put and declared carried.

7:05 pm

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Next Tuesday.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 14 October 2014.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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When is it proposed to sit again?

Photo of Martin ConwayMartin Conway (Fine Gael)
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Ar 10.30 a.m. maidin amárach.

Photo of Pat O'NeillPat O'Neill (Fine Gael)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.