Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009: Motions.

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009: Motions. (27 Jun 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

An Cathaoirleach Gníomhach (Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh): Before I call on the Minister to open the debate, I remind Members that there are two separate motions being debated, namely, the motion regarding the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 and the motion regarding the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. The motions will be moved separately, but will be debated together and decided by separate questions. There is an amendment tabled to both motions by Sinn Féin and the Labour Party has tabled an amendment to the first motion.

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): This Government is fully committed to supporting An Garda Síochána in combating those involved in organised crime. This is reflected in the unprecedented allocation of more than €2 billion in budget 2023. An Garda Síochána is working intensively to bear down on those involved and deserves praise for its considerable success in disrupting the activities of criminal gangs, making significant seizures of drugs and weapons, bringing organised criminals to justice and, most importantly, preventing loss of life. As Minister for Justice I acknowledge this important work. It is clear from the report that An Garda Síochána made a significant number of arrests in respect of the offences relevant to section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009, with a number of convictions recorded in the Special Criminal Court during the reporting period. The views of An Garda Síochána are clearly set out in the report and they are that the continued operation of this provision is required. It is my strong view, therefore, that section 8 should be continued in operation for a further 12 months.……………

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: What could we do better to try to help those communities which is, in the ultimate, best way of trying to reduce crime? In that regard, I particularly regret the demise of the RAPID programme. It was abolished in 2011, which hit the most deprived communities hardest. We must ask those who take illegal drugs, including people who use cocaine and say, "Sure, it's only recreational", who they get it from and whether they are part of this whole problem collectively.

Deputy Martin Kenny: That needs to change, and it needs to do so quickly. The report came out 21 years ago because it was written into the Good Friday Agreement that emergency legislation relating to the conflict, North and South, would be examined and reviewed and, where possible, rescinded because it was considered to be conflict-related legislation. We all accept that there are aspects of it that are primarily used now in regard to the very violent criminal gangs which, in the main, plague our communities with drugs, violence and all of that. They have huge power, a massive network and many are international in nature. We have to have 21st century legislation to deal with that and firm legislation to protect communities and people, including jurors and witnesses and everyone involved in the system including gardaí. We want to see that put in place. We want to build consensus with the Minister and everyone else in the House to do so. That is why we accept what is in the report from the experts who were appointed by the Minister’s predecessor, Deputy Flanagan. After the general election in 2020, I spoke to the then Minister, Deputy Flanagan, about this matter. Initially, he was resistant to having a review because he felt that would be to concede that there was something wrong with the legislation. He did not want to do that, but he eventually came around and said he would establish the review. He is to be commended for that.

Equally, we are in a very different place from the days of paramilitary activity being at such a scale that it required significant resources of the State. I take the Minister's points that there are still ongoing paramilitary activities which warrant the use of this court, and I have no doubt about that, but I have to admit to her that my primary motivation for standing up to support the Bill tonight is the way it is used to tackle the illegal drugs industry. I imagine many Members in the House are motivated in supporting the Bill on that basis. We know that in tackling the illegal drugs industry, this is not the only tool that is there, and perhaps we rely too closely on the judicial system and forget too often about issues like poverty and the criminalisation of addiction. Many community supports can be put in place to prevent the drugs industry thriving off the difficulties many of our communities face.....

[For the full debate, click this link to the Oireachtas website]

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