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An armed officer outside the Special Criminal Court, Dublin. Alamy Stock Photo

Cabinet agrees to renew Ireland’s counter-terrorism laws as 'real and persistent' threat remains

The minister will tell Cabinet colleagues that there remains a substantial threat from serious organised crime.

“A REAL AND persistent” threat from terrorist activity, including from so-called ‘dissident’ republican paramilitary groups, remains active in the State, Justice Minister Helen McEntee told Cabinet today. 

The minister will today seek government approval for the renewal of the State’s counter-terrorism laws for a further period of 12 months.

The renewal of the provisions requires the passing of resolutions in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a three-judge criminal court, without a jury, that deals with terrorist and organised crime cases. The court has no jury in order to avoid any potential intimidation of its members.

The court is enabled by the Offences Against the State Act, the first of which was published in 1939 to prosecute members of the IRA and declare any similar organisations unlawful.

More recently, the court has been used to deal with the deadly rise in gang-land crime and organised criminal enterprises.

The legislation and its court have been criticised by Amnesty International, the United Nations and The Irish Council of Civil Liberties over the last number of decades. 

Last year, an expert group recommended that the Special Criminal Court be replaced with a new court that has additional safeguards and transparency.

The majority’s report also called for the Offences Against the State Act to be “repealed in its entirety” and parts of it to be re-enacted within other laws with a “significant” amount of amendments.

However, a minority review from the same expert group took a different viewing, saying that a permanent non-jury court would be “constitutionally inappropriate”.

irish-justice-minister-helen-mcentee-td Justice Minister Helen McEntee Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

McEntee told her colleagues today that the government will take all necessary steps to protect the state from terrorism and from organised crime groups.

It is understood the minister’s view is that the existence of such threats, including the threat from violent extremism and international terrorism, warrants the continuance of these laws.

She also considers that there remains a substantial threat from serious organised crime in the State, particularly from criminal gangs – some with significant international links – who are engaged in the trafficking of drugs and firearms, as well as in other serious crimes, and who are prepared to commit murder.

In terms of follow up from the expert group’ review, the Department of Justice has engaged in detailed consultation on the recommendations and is continuing to consider the report.

It is the view of the minister that given the important role these laws have had in keeping citizens safe, any proposals for reform must be thoroughly considered and approached with the utmost care.

It is understood that preparation of a substantive response to the review will be brought to government for consideration in due course, though there has been no clarification on timelines. 

In the meantime, the need for the renewal of the existing provisions remains, the minister has said. 

Access to Cash Bill and Motor Insurance

Separately, Finance Minister Michael McGrath will ask government to approve the text of the Motor Insurance Insolvency Compensation Bill 2024, which makes changes to the level of cover you get for motor insurance when driving across the EU.

The EU Directive that is being transposed into Irish law means drivers can freely travel across the EU with similar levels of compulsory insurance.

The directive is understood to strengthen the rights of our citizens, as policyholders, in the event of an accident happening anywhere within the EU.

The minister will also bring an update to Cabinet on the Access to Cash Bill, which is now in a consultation period with the European Central Bank, along with the national payments strategy. 

Mother and Baby Home survivors

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman will bring a memo to Cabinet on the action plan for Mother and Baby Home survivors.

Cabinet ministers will hear that more 10,000 people have now received information through the Birth Information and Tracing Act, with all applications now being processed with statutory timelines.

First payments have now begun to issue to survivors as part of the redress scheme.

Cabinet will be told that a planning application for the Sean McDermott Street site will be submitted imminently.

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