Irish Times
14 Mar 2012

MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter ruled out repealing the Offences Against the State Act.

He said there was “the remaining and continuing threat” from what were sometimes referred to as dissident organisations.

“I regard them as urban terrorists intent on destroying the peace process in Northern Ireland and on the whole island of Ireland,” he added.

“The State needs to have available to it the mechanism of the Offences Against the State Act to deal with those intent on murder and mayhem for their perceived political reasons on the island of Ireland.”

Mr Shatter said it was also needed for gangland crime, adding that in recent days there had been “horrific and barbaric” murders relating primarily to drugs.

He added that the Offences Against the State Act 1939 permitted the Director of Public Prosecutions to direct that certain cases be sent for trial in the Special Criminal Court. He said the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 had put in place legislative measures to combat organised crime when the effective administration of justice could not otherwise be achieved.

The Minister was replying to Cork North Central Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien, who said various organisations had described the Act as draconian.

A report laid before the House last year showed 764 people were arrested under the provisions of section 30, yet only 38 convictions were secured.

“The legislation needs to be repealed because it is not working,” said Mr O’Brien.

He said that when the matter had been debated last year, everyone in the House had renewed the call on the paramilitary groups to cease their activities. “We will renew it again.”

Mr Shatter said Mr O’Brien could not want to end violence perpetrated in Northern Ireland and gun crime as engaged in by organised crime in the Republic, and want the repeal of the Act at the same time.