Wednesday, 26 January 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. M. McDowell): There is a worldwide recognition that the response to the challenge of international terrorism requires concerted action and co-operation by the international community in addition to action on the part of individual states. International terrorism strikes at universal values such as the sanctity of human life, tolerance of differing views, the freedom to advocate those views and a commitment to change by democratic means alone. Our response must be to uphold and protect such values and to deny international terrorists the means and opportunities to launch attacks which aim to destroy these values.
Moreover, the terrible images and heartbreaking stories that are born of terrorist atrocities serve as a constant reminder that we, as legislators, have a duty to ensure that terrorists will find no comfort in this jurisdiction. Such a solemn duty merits decisive action and not merely fine words or rhetoric. The horrific terrorist attack in Madrid on 11 March last year reminded us, as if we needed it, that terrorism has not gone away and that Europe is equally vulnerable to the threat of terrorism.
The United Nations has been the focal point in framing the response at the level of the world community, while the European Union has played the key role at regional level. That response has provided the central part of the context in which this Bill has been framed. Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted in 2001, specifies a range of measures on which states are required to take action. In particular, it calls upon states to combat the financing of terrorism and to become parties to the relevant international conventions. At European Union level, political agreement was achieved at the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in December 2001 on a framework decision on combating terrorism. The framework decision provides for a common definition of terrorist offences, including offences relating to terrorist groups, and was formally adopted by the Council on 13 June 2002. The Oireachtas had earlier approved Ireland’s agreement to its adoption.
We are obliged, as a member state of both the United Nations and the European Union, to enact legislation, which will enable us to give effect to these commitments. We on this island have, unfortunately, had a great deal of experience in facing the challenge of terrorism. As a result, our existing legislation has traditionally been more comprehensive than that in many other countries. However, it should be remembered that our existing legislation has been primarily framed with reference to the threat posed by groups indigenous to the island of Ireland. It is clear that we need additional legislative provisions to counter the international terrorist threat. I will now outline the key elements of the Bill.
The Bill will give effect to a number of international instruments directed against terrorism and will enable us to meet commitments which the State has undertaken as part of the European Union and the broader international community, including commitments arising from UN Security Council Resolution 1373. It will also amend our law more generally to enhance the capacity of the State and its police force to address the problem of international terrorism. It will make further provision for a number of additional measures directed, in particular, against the financing of terrorism.
More specifically, the Bill serves three essential purposes: first, it will give effect in our law to the EU framework decision on combating terrorism; second, it will give effect to the United Nations Conventions Against the Taking of Hostages, on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons and for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings; and, third, it will give effect to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. I will outline the main provisions in the Bill by reference to these three essential purposes.
Part 2 will give effect to the framework decision on combating terrorism adopted by the Council of the European Union on 13 June 2002, which, for convenience, is set out at Schedule 1. This framework decision is directed to the approximation of the laws of the member states of the European Union in respect of a common definition of terrorist offences, including those relating to terrorist groups. This new common understanding of what terrorism means will be important not only in providing a co-ordinated EU-wide response to terrorism but also in facilitating cross-border co-operation in tackling it. Framework decisions are binding on member states as to the results to be achieved but leave to national authorities the choice of form and methods and do not entail direct effect. The Bill, therefore, proposes to make the necessary provision in our law to give effect to the framework decision and accordingly provides for terrorist offences to form a separate and distinct category in our law. It also makes provision for terrorist groups by way of the application of the relevant provisions of the Offences against the State Acts to such groups and for enhanced penalties to attach to terrorist offences in certain circumstances.
The definitions are contained in section 4. For example, “terrorist activity” is defined by reference to offences under our law which are committed in or outside the State with the intent of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, economic or social structures of a state or an international organisation.
The specified offences for the purpose of the definition of “terrorist activity” are set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule and comprise those offences under Irish law which correspond to the specified categories of intentional acts set out in Article 1 of the framework decision. These are serious offences, for which persons are liable to be tried on indictment, involving violence against persons or property and related firearms and explosives offences or offences involving chemical or nuclear weapons. Likewise, the required intent for the purpose of the definition follows closely the wording of the framework decision.
Section 6 makes provision for terrorist offences by reference to the definitions in section 4 and in keeping with the requirements of the framework decision. Thus, section 4(1) provides that a person who engages in terrorist activity or terrorist-linked activity in, or in certain circumstances, outside the State, is guilty of an offence. It also makes attempting to engage in terrorist activity or in terrorist-linked activity and threatening to do so in or outside the State an offence. The circumstances in which terrorist offences committed outside the State will be offences in our law are governed by section 6(2) and 6(3) and correspond to those circumstances in which Article 9 of the framework decision requires us to take extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Section 6(4) provides that subsection (1) will not apply in respect of the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict in so far as those activities are governed by international humanitarian law or the activities of military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties in so far as those activities are governed by other rules of international law. Similar provisions are made in regard to the UN convention offences in Part 3, in keeping with the relevant requirements of those conventions. This does not mean the activities of armed forces are not subject to any law but that they are subject to other existing rules of international law and not to the framework decision.
Section 6(5) was inserted by way of an official Report Stage amendment in the Dáil. It arises from concerns expressed regarding the breadth of the definition of “terrorist activity” in the Bill. The effect of the subsection is to provide, for the avoidance of doubt, that engagement in an act of protest or industrial action does not constitute an act of terrorism without the necessary intention defined earlier.
Concerns were also expressed about the possibility that a person engaged in activity against an oppressive or tyrannical regime could be convicted under the legislation. After much consideration of this complex issue, I tabled an amendment on Report Stage in the Dáil to insert a new subsection (6). Thus, section 6(6) provides that the consent of the Attorney General is required in cases where a person is charged with an offence, in or outside the State, with the intention of unduly compelling a government of a state, other than a member state of the European Union, to perform or to abstain from performing an act or of seriously destabilising or destroying the political, constitutional, economic or social structures of such a state.
It is difficult to distinguish between what in colloquial terms could be described as terrorists and what in the past have been described as freedom fighters and it is almost impossible to devise a legislative distinction between what is a tyranny and what is not. In these circumstances, the only practical way to give effect and be faithful to the framework decision while, at the same time, avoiding the possibility that persons acting legitimately against a tyranny, for example, would be prosecuted in the courts in a manner repugnant to our values was to vest in the Attorney General the same function he or she exercises under the Official Secrets Act and in regard to fisheries prosecutions.
Sections 6(7) and 6(8), recognising the special difficulties that can attach to proving offences of specific intent, also make provision for certain circumstances in which the existence of the intent required for the purposes of committing the offence of engaging in or attempting to engage in terrorist activity may be presumed to exist, subject to the right of the accused to rebut that presumption. The penalties that will apply to persons convicted of terrorist offences are set out in section 7. This provides, in keeping with Article 5 of the framework decision, for enhanced penalties in certain circumstances by reference to the penalties imposable for the same offence when committed without the special intent required for terrorist offences. The penalty imposable will be the same where it is a sentence of imprisonment fixed by law or imprisonment for life but enhanced maximum penalties will be available in all other circumstances.
Section 5 makes provision for terrorist groups, as defined in section 4, by way of the application of the relevant provisions of the Offences against the State Acts to such groups whether based in or outside the State. This will allow the requirements imposed by Articles 2 and 9 of the framework decision to be met in keeping with our existing law directed to unlawful organisations. It is also in keeping with a recommendation of the committee to review the Offences against the State Acts that the Government should have power to make a suppression order in respect of foreign terrorist organisations.
The section provides that terrorist groups will be unlawful organisations for the purposes of the Offences against the State Acts and that the relevant provisions, including, for example, provision for the offences of membership and directing an unlawful organisation, will equally attach to terrorist groups, as will the power of the Government to make suppression orders in regard to them. Provision is made under section 6(1)(b) for certain specified offences relating to unlawful organisations also to be offences when committed outside the jurisdiction. The offences specified for this purpose comprise the existing offences of directing and membership of, as well as the proposed new offence of providing assistance to, an unlawful organisation.
Part 6 makes provision for certain amendments to the Offences against the State Acts which are directed principally to the requirements of the framework decision. These include the provision for a new offence of providing assistance to an unlawful organisation under section 49. This provision flows in part from a recommendation in the report of the committee to review the Offences against the State Acts, which recognised there could be cases where persons are closely associated with unlawful organisations and actively further their ends but are not, or cannot be proven to be, members of the organisation. It is also in keeping with the concept of participation in a terrorist group used in Article 4 of the framework decision, which would not necessarily be fully met by the existing offence of membership.
I hope the provision being made in the Bill for the purposes of giving effect to the framework decision on combating terrorism does not give rise to concern on the part of those who seek change in our society or who engage in legitimate protest. I have included specific provisions in sections 6(5) and 6(6) to ensure these rights are protected.
The Bill does not make it an offence to seek change nor does it make it an offence to have a cause. The right to seek and work for change is fundamental in our society and under our Constitution and the Government will continue to defend that right, including the right of persons to espouse causes and views with which the Government itself may disagree. The Bill will, in its own way, protect such persons from those who would threaten that right. The Bill draws the line where persons or organisations engage in concerted campaigns of violence in support of such causes, which is not legitimate.
The purpose of Part 3 is to enable Ireland to become party to three UN conventions, which are relevant in the context of the international effort against terrorism. These are the Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons. Ireland signed the terrorist bombing convention on 29 May 1998 and will ratify that convention and accede to the remaining two conventions following the enactment of this Bill. Both the UN and the EU have called on states to ratify all relevant terrorism conventions as soon as possible.
Convention-specific offences are being created in the Bill for the purpose of each of the three conventions to ensure full compliance with the requirements under each convention, including the requirement to take extraterritorial jurisdiction. These offences will in certain cases supplement existing offences under our law directed to the same or similar conduct. They will, at the same time, ensure that gaps between existing offences and the offences as defined in the convention are bridged. This arises, for example, in the case of the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombing where the convention offence extends to the use of devices which release biological agents and toxins. These are covered by existing offences under the Explosive Substances Act 1883, the Chemical Weapons Act 1997 and the Radiological Protection Act 1997. Sections 9 to 11 provide for the new offences. Section 9 provides for the new offence of hostage-taking, section 10 provides for the offence of terrorist bombing while section 11 makes provision in regard to internationally protected persons.
The third key element of the Bill is the measures contained in Parts 4 and 6 intended to give effect to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and aimed at combating terrorist financing more generally in keeping with our obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and the financial action task force recommendations.
Even before September 11, it was clear the international community was concerned about the impact of the movement of funds intended for terrorist purposes on the worldwide escalation of acts of terrorism. This concern was partly reflected in the drawing up of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which was opened for signature on 10 January 2000. Ireland signed the convention on 15 October 2001. A primary purpose of Part 4 of the Bill is to provide the statutory framework for ratification by Ireland of the convention. The measures provided for in that convention have in turn been supplemented by UN Security Council Resolution 1373 which, in addition to calling on states to ratify the convention itself, also requires them to freeze, without delay, funds and other financial assets or economic resources of persons who commit, or attempt to commit, terrorist acts.
The key provision in the Bill for the purpose of giving effect to the convention is section 13 which makes provision for the new offence of financing terrorism and which gives effect to the definition of that offence in Article 2 of the convention. It also goes beyond the requirements of the convention to include the financing of terrorist groups as defined in section 4 of the Bill and terrorist offences within the meaning of section 6 of the Bill to the extent that these are not covered by the convention. The jurisdiction provisions in section 13 correspond to both the mandatory and discretionary jurisdiction requirements in Article 7 of the convention. The one exception is that they do not apply to the framework decision element of the offence as this is covered by the jurisdiction provisions of section 6(2) and 6(3). The definition of “funds” in Article 1 of the convention is reflected in section 12 of the Bill. It is a comprehensive definition covering assets of every kind with the emphasis very much on financial transactions.
Part 4 of the Bill also provides for two distinct and dedicated procedures for the purpose of giving effect to Article 8 of the convention. Both procedures are court-based and build on existing provisions of our law. The key difference between them is that the first will enable an application to be made to freeze funds intended for use in committing terrorist offences independently of criminal proceedings, whereas the second will be available for use in conjunction with such proceedings in respect of the new offence of financing terrorism. The two procedures, therefore, will complement each other.
Provision for the first of these procedures is made in sections 14 to 20, inclusive, of the Bill and will enable funds which are being used, or which may be intended to be used, for the purpose of committing terrorist offences, including the offence of financing terrorism, to be frozen and ultimately made subject to a disposal order in favour of the State. The procedure closely mirrors the existing provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996.
Section 14 accordingly will enable the High Court to make an interim order prohibiting a person from disposing of funds for a period of up to 40 days where it is satisfied, on foot of an ex parte application by a chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána, that a person possesses funds that are being used, or may be intended for use, in the commission of a terrorist offence or a terrorist financing offence. Section 15 will enable the High Court to make an interlocutory order extending the period during which the funds are frozen unless satisfied by any person claiming an interest in those funds that they are not intended for such use or that there would be a serious risk of injustice.
Section 16 will in similar circumstances enable the High Court to make a disposal order in favour of the State where an interlocutory order has been in force for a period of not less than seven years. The Criminal Assets Bureau is concerned with the proceeds of crime. One makes an ex parte application to freeze suspect funds. Anybody claiming a bona fide interest in the funds has the right to come to court and establish the funds are not intended for terrorist purposes. If that does not happen within a period of six years, it is possible for the funds to be forfeited to the State in the seventh year.
The Bill also makes provision for a statement by a chief superintendent that he or she believes funds are being used or are intended for use in committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist offence to be evidence, provided that the High Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for that belief. In addition, it provides for the payment of compensation to a person in respect of any loss incurred by a person in respect of orders made in accordance with the procedure.
The second procedure in Part 4 of the Bill is contained in sections 21 to 41, inclusive. These provide a statutory framework which will enable the confiscation, restraint and forfeiture provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to be applied for the purpose of the new offence of terrorist financing. It is necessary to legislate in this way as the existing relevant provisions of the 1994 Act only allow for the confiscation and restraint of the benefits derived from drug trafficking and the benefits from an offence other than drug trafficking. The Bill amends the 1994 Act to provide a dedicated procedure for the purpose of the offence of financing terrorism.
The effect of those amendments will be that where a person has been convicted of, and sentenced for, an offence of financing terrorism, the Director of Public Prosecutions can apply to the court to determine whether the person holds funds subject to confiscation. That is dealt with at length in the ensuing sections.
Similarly, it is proposed to amend section 23 of the 1994 Act in section 30 of the Bill by empowering the High Court to make a restraint order in circumstances where proceedings have been instituted against a defendant for an offence of financing terrorism, where the proceedings have not been concluded or where a confiscation order has been made or it appears to the court that there are reasonable grounds for thinking that a confiscation order may be made. This mirrors the existing provisions of the 1994 Act relating to the making of restraint orders for a drug trafficking offence or another indictable offence for the proceeds of crime.
In addition, the High Court will be able to order compensation to be paid to any person whose property has been affected by an order of restraint and the proceedings do not result in conviction for an offence of financing terrorism, or the conviction is quashed.
The 1994 Act also contains important provisions directed at the prevention and detection of money laundering. Section 32 of the Bill amends the relevant provisions of the 1994 Act to extend the obligation on financial institutions to adopt measures for the purpose of preventing and detecting money laundering to also cover the prevention and detection of the offence of financing terrorism. Likewise, under section 36, the obligation on financial institutions to report to the Garda Síochána any suspicion of money laundering is being extended to include an obligation to report any suspicion of an offence of financing terrorism which is being committed in connection with their business. These provisions will provide an important means by which the existence of terrorist funds may come to light and provide a basis for recourse to the procedures for the freezing of those funds, which I have just outlined.
Section 42 empowers the Minister for Finance to make regulations directed at freezing terrorist funds so that enabling acts adopted by the institutions of the European Communities for this purpose can be given full effect. The real significance of section 42 is that it provides for an indictable offence for breach of the regulations. At present, breach of the regulations can only be tried summarily. This provision will have particular application to measures adopted within the EU for the purpose of giving effect to UN Security Council Resolution 1373.
Part 6 of the Bill will also make provision for another important element of the package directed at combating the financing of terrorism by way of an amendment to the Offences against the State Acts. The Bill will allow existing provisions of those Acts which have application to the property of unlawful organisations to be applied to terrorist groups. Certain additional measures are also provided for in the Bill including, in section 51, provision for a procedure directed at the recovery of the property of unlawful organisations in respect of which a suppression order has been made which stands forfeited to the Minister. This procedure, which will be court-based, draws on the provisions of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1985 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 for inspiration and is intended to complement the procedure under the 1985 Act which applies to the moneys of unlawful organisations held in a bank. Therefore, items into which money has been converted will now be vulnerable to pursuit in this manner. It includes provision allowing any interim order made by the court to be challenged by any person claiming ownership of the property and for the payment of compensation in appropriate circumstances.
Sections 50 and 52 of the Bill make certain other amendments to the Offences against the State Acts also for the purpose of combating the financing of terrorism. These include updating the definition of property in line with other provisions of the Bill and amendments to the 1985 Act to ensure that it will be available for use as circumstances require.
Part 7 of the Bill deals with amendments to the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003. As Senators will be aware, that Act implemented the EU framework decision on the European arrest warrant. The amendments contained in Part 7 of this Bill arise out of experience gained in the administration and implementation of the 2003 Act. They are also designed to ensure we have effective extradition and surrender arrangements. It is essential that we have sound arrangements in this area, especially in the context of the threat from terrorism.
The amendments are, in the main, of a technical and procedural nature and seek in many instances to clarify, in the light of experience, some provisions in the Act. The more significant of the amendments relate to the revised sections 22 to 24, inclusive, of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003. The Act currently requires that the surrender of the wanted person to the issuing state under a European arrest warrant must be refused unless certain undertakings are given by that issuing state in relation to the issues I have mentioned or unless it can be established that the law of the issuing state makes adequate provision with regard to those issues. We have experienced some difficulty and delay in obtaining the undertakings as several member states feel the terms of the framework decision as it operates between member states that have implemented it provide sufficient assurance on the issues, without the need for such undertakings.
I have reconsidered our position in conjunction with the Attorney General and I am satisfied the new arrangements now being proposed will continue to provide the wanted person with the necessary level of protection while at the same time overcoming the difficulties experienced with the existing provisions. Under the new arrangements, the High Court will be required to refuse surrender where, on the basis of a case made before it by or on behalf of the wanted person, it is satisfied that a decision has not been made to charge and try the person for the offence for which he or she is sought or, as respects specialty, onward surrender or extradition, that the relevant provisions are not being respected by the issuing state. I am confident that we will rarely if ever find that a member state is not meeting its obligations under the framework decision or that it is not acting in a bona fide manner with regard to a warrant it issues. However, the new provisions ensure that, even in such rare cases, we will have an adequate means of protecting anyone whose situation could be jeopardised should there be any non-compliance by a member state.
I expect to introduce some further amendments to Part 7 on Committee Stage. These new amendments will relate to amendments already inserted in the Dáil and can be considered as completing and tidying up the changes already begun by the earlier amendments.
I am also considering, in conjunction with the Attorney General, bringing forward on Committee Stage an amendment dealing with the retention of communications data. The declaration on combating terrorism drawn up after the Madrid bombings of March 2004 directed the Council to adopt an instrument on data retention by June 2005. It may be necessary to introduce an amendment on data retention to bridge the gap until negotiations on the EU instrument, a framework decision, have been completed after which I intend to publish a more comprehensive communications data retention Bill without delay.
These proposals represent the key elements of the Bill. The Bill also contains certain other procedural provisions as well as consequential amendments to a number of other Acts to which I could also refer. However, I am conscious that I have already spoken at length. I hope that what I have said will assist the House in its task of considering the Bill.
This Bill is necessary to enable us to comply with our commitments as members of the international community and our legal obligation to comply with the framework decision under EU law. Furthermore, our existing legislation has been framed with reference to the threat posed by groups indigenous to Ireland. We clearly need additional legislative measures to counter the international terrorist threat we also face. We must ensure that our legislation is as effective against international terrorists as it is against domestic terrorists. Therefore, I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Cummins: I welcome the Minister to the House and thank him for his comprehensive explanation of the Bill. This Bill was first presented in the Dáil on 16 December 2002. Second Stage was taken in February 2003. It took almost two years before Report and Final Stages were taken in December 2004. This suggests that the Minister was lukewarm about some aspects or the thrust of the Bill. However, he has explained the reasons for the delay and that he had to consult with other member states on problems that might have arisen. I was worried about his commitment but I need not have been. We must be proactive in processing such legislation in order to meet our commitments as part of the European Union and the broader international community, especially commitments arising from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted in response to the dreadful events of 11 September 2001.
When we enact legislation it is, theoretically, put on the Statute Book forever. We should build a sunset or review clause into all legislation. However, leaving that aside for now, there are compelling reasons for having a review of this legislation in five to ten years in order to assess whether it should remain on the Statute Book. The greater the threat that international and domestic terrorism pose, the more restrictive our legislation and, inevitably, our society becomes. It is a slippery slope which leads to greater and greater restrictions as time goes on. We can only arrest these restrictions on our freedoms if we start to assess whether the restrictions are justified in a changed environment.
Between now and Committee Stage, will the Minister consider the merits of building some mechanism of review into this legislation? He may tell me that all legislation is reviewed periodically by Ministers, but that is not acceptable in this case. We need some statutorily-based period for review for what is, basically, emergency legislation.
The Minister has established a tradition of labelling everything issued by the Human Rights Commission as “tendentious”. He should look more seriously at what it says about this Bill. A particular point that struck me was that freedoms and discretion provided for by the framework decision have been seized upon by the Minister as opportunities to be even more restrictive than is expected or necessary.
One of the motivating factors behind the Bill is the protection of democracy. Freedom is one of the pillars of our democracy and legislation of this kind is yet another measure which restricts that freedom. The freedom of the majority must not be scuppered for the purpose of pursuing a small minority. In putting in place the necessary protections we must always ensure that they are proportionate and are in place only for as long as is necessary.
I took the time to go through the transcripts of the Dáil debate on this Bill. While some parties had concerns about various aspects of the Bill, Sinn Féin was alone in its trenchant opposition to it. Given the recent events involving the Northern Bank, is it any wonder Sinn Féin would be irked at the prospect of the Oireachtas debating and passing a Bill dealing with terrorist offences? Sinn Féin seems to shudder at the prospect of the criminalisation of any type of behaviour. Its concept of freedom seems to encompass the freedom to rob, take hostages and injure others. Some would, no doubt, add murder to that list of freedoms. Sinn Féin is the party that Fianna Fáil seems to be eyeing up for the first dance after the next election. Sinn Féin is now out in the political cold, but it was not the sharp and decisive judgement of the Taoiseach that put it there.
Speaking on this Bill in the other House, Sinn Féin outlined its problems with many aspects of it. I hope this House can unite with Fine Gael in saying that we have many problems with many aspects of Sinn Féin and its chameleon-like tendencies. Just as Sinn Féin denied the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, the IRA now denies robbing the Northern Bank and Sinn Féin seems nauseated at the thought that its denials are not taken as gospel truth. Sinn Féin is desperately trying to appease the public, while on the other hand making sure it does not upset its activists. For far too long there has been an acceptance of Sinn Féin’s passive ambiguity when it comes to condemning crimes like this. This Bill seeks to clamp down on international terrorism. However, we should not lose sight of the terrorists in our midst and the tolerance that we have built up to their presence and their activities.
This Bill is a response to the challenge of international terrorism. Greater co-operation and targeted action by the international community is required, as well as action on the part of individual countries. It is our duty as legislators to ensure that terrorists will not find comfort in this jurisdiction. It is right and fitting that we should be party to the relevant international conventions on terrorism and co-operate through bilateral and multilateral agreements and take strident action against the perpetrators of such terrorist acts.
Section 9 provides for the new offence of hostage taking and section 10 deals with the offence of terrorist bombing. I fully support the penalty of life imprisonment for such offences. However, a life sentence in this jurisdiction does not always mean life. It upsets people that such offenders are often back on the streets after seven or eight years. That is an absolute disgrace. What measures can we put in place to ensure that life means at least 20 years?
The financing of terrorism and money laundering are dealt with in the Bill. I fully support the measures outlined to combat these activities. The freezing and confiscation of funds is a most effective measure in tackling crime. As the Minister stated, we recently dealt with this issue in the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
The world has especially been subjected to international terrorism since 11 September 2001. Terrible atrocities have also occurred in other countries, notably Spain. Terrorist organisations around the world include al-Qaeda, ETA, FARC and the IRA. It is incumbent on us to do everything possible to stem the tide of terrorism throughout the world. The Bill will play some small part in ensuring that our jurisdiction will not be used for terrorist acts.
Mr. Kett: I welcome the Minister and thank him for his most comprehensive analysis of the Bill. As Senator Cummins outlined, the Bill is set against the backdrop of the devastating and traumatic events of 11 September 2001 and the other serious terrorist acts which took place at that time. We witnessed in graphic detail what human life means to these people who justify their actions by means of one cause or another. It also highlighted the challenge facing the international community in terms of creating legislation to deal with these people both at home and abroad. The European Council framework decision of 13 June 2002 was drawn up in response to the events of 11 September 2001. As the Minister outlined, that legislation must be incorporated in domestic legislation. The Bill also incorporates a series of conventions dealing with terrorism. These include the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, including diplomatic agents, and the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.
Many of the Bill’s provisions giving power to the authorities mirror elements of the Criminal Assets Bureau, especially in regard to the freezing of funds and the seizure of assets. We are all aware of the success of the Criminal Assets Bureau and we can only hope that the nations of the world will be equally successful with common legislative measures in regard to counteracting terrorism.
The Minister referred to the difficulty of defining a terrorist act. We would probably all recognise a terrorist act if we saw one but it is difficult to define it in a few sentences or paragraphs. How does one distinguish an act of war or political assassination from a terrorist act? I am sure the Minister, with his expertise and knowledge of this area, has made a very good stab at it here. I am prepared to let him do the paraphrasing.
Like most Members of the House I welcome the exclusion from the Schedule of offences of those seeking to change society by engaging in legitimate means of protest. However, I would not like to see that exclusion being used by people to engage in criminality under the cover of protest. At some time in our lives we have all engaged in a protest in the belief that we had a just cause. It is important that citizens have the right to speak out and engage in protest if they so wish. However, they must also understand that in demonstrating, they must act within the confines of the laws of the land. In recent times we have seen evidence of demonstrations that have gone very badly wrong. In one anti-globalisation protest, shops were looted and garages and businesses were set on fire. This may have been due to members of a hard core element finding their way into the demonstrations, people who may not have had anything to do with the cause but just used it as a cover. People who organise demonstrations have a duty to ensure this does not happen.
Terrorism did not begin on 11 September 2001 and, unfortunately, it did not end then either as the events in Madrid demonstrated. We have had our fair share of terrorism and, as a result, our legislation is better in that respect than that in other countries. We only have to look to the outrageous bombing of Omagh and the death, devastation and trauma that brought. Terrorism presents a continuing threat to the peace process. More than anything else, the events of 11 September 2001 brought a shared determination among the nations of the world that terrorism would not prevail. The question can be asked as to why terrorism is so prevalent now. However, if we look around the world we will see that atrocities are not a feature of this time only. For example, Palestine is an area in which there has been ongoing conflict for many years.
We all looked on the US as being impregnable and it was a shock for us when we saw the ease with which terrorists found their way into the heartland of America to carry out atrocities. We probably all feel more vulnerable as a result. The stronger the legislation we enact, the better for us. The same holds true for the rest of the world. An organisation is only as strong as its weakest link. We need to be sure that in putting forward legislation we are holding up our end, so to speak. I have no fears in that regard.
The link between poverty and global security cannot be overstated. Poverty is the ultimate endemic threat and we should maintain the resolve we are currently showing in tackling terrorism to also tackle poverty. If we extend the fight to poverty we will probably make real progress in promoting global security. The atrocities listed by Senator Cummins and the Minister were undoubtedly terrorist acts carried out by secretive organisations that are hell-bent on undermining the world’s governments and the way we live. They challenge everything all of us who believe in democracy and a peaceful existence hold dear. However, their ability to recruit into their organisations is often born out of the type of economic and social justice which some countries uphold. Poverty can also be a factor because people in such circumstances can be frustrated and angry and have a low sense of self-worth. People can join political movements or organisations in order to achieve self-worth at the right end of the gun rather than the wrong end.
If I had a concern before the Minister made his speech, it was to ensure that, in finalising this legislation, we do not compromise or impinge on civil liberties. The Minister stated that he had included specific provisions in the Bill to ensure that does not happen, about which I am happy. If we started to restrict such freedoms as those to congregate, assemble or speak out as we see fit, we would have already lost the battle in a war concerning the type of democracy in which we wish to live.
The wider debate on terrorism must address the very real threat of state terrorism as it exists in the international climate in which this debate commenced and continues to take place. There is no doubt that the era of Saddam Hussein and his party in Iraq constituted a terrorist regime which denied freedom of speech and expression to its own people. When Saddam considered that people were not upholding the laws, he oppressed, murdered and maimed them. We need to consider what is the best way to deal with such cases. I am not so sure that we should do so by practising our own form of terrorism. A bomb in Iraq and a bomb in Northern Ireland are both wrong if the intent is to kill innocent people —either collaterally or otherwise. “Collateral damage” is a horrible term used by Americans and others when they get something wrong and kill civilians. We must be consistent in our own principles if we believe in true democracy and its moral basis. Therefore, the definition of terrorism in the Bill is crucial.
This is one of the most important Bills which has come before the House in the context of world peace and it is important we ensure we play our part in eliminating the conditions in which terrorism can flourish. We must stand with our partners in Europe and the United Nations and implement legislation. I wish the Minister well as he endeavours to do just that.
Dr. Henry: I welcome the Minister and the Bill to the House. Any reservations I had about the Bill were greatly assuaged by the Minister’s speech in which he stated that he would be most unhappy if legitimate protests were to be considered terrorist acts when that is not the case. It is most important that our reactions to terrorist threats do not impinge on our civil rights. America’s homeland security legislation has impinged very seriously on the rights of a large number of American citizens and we do not want anything like that to happen here.
I wish to address Part 3 of the Bill, which I warmly welcome. Ireland is frequently extremely slow to ratify UN conventions, although we are quick to sign up to them. For example, since I was elected to this House, I have raised the issue of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972. I have been informed that enacting legislation for such conventions takes some time. However, more than 30 years is a very long time indeed. The most important of these conventions which requires ratification having been agreed to nearly 30 years ago, is the hostage convention.
We seem to have a peculiar attitude about hostages taken by people abroad in the sense that they seem to be of more importance and the crime more serious and heinous than when hostages are taken in this country. However, we have had a dreadful problem with the taking of hostages by paramilitaries on both sides — but the IRA in particular — for more than 30 years in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. It is a shocking situation. I wish I had heard the same outpouring of grief about Jean McConville who was killed after being taken hostage, as I did about Margaret Hassan. Both deaths were shocking but there was little public outpouring of grief about Jean McConville. I do not remember any church services being held in her memory. In this regard, we have a biased view depending on whether people are taken hostage in this country or abroad. Both situations are outrageous.
In Ireland we had appalling situations in which some people were made into human bombs while their families were held hostage. It was surely one of the lowest points we reached in our history. It was truly quite dreadful. I ask that we examine the situation raised by Senator Cummins regarding the Northern Bank robbery and the hostage taking in that case. There is a sense that this was a victimless crime since no one was killed. It is stated that £26 million was taken from the bank but that most of the bank notes cannot be used and it is therefore a victimless crime. However, that is not the case.
Members must have seen on television the interview of the young man from Poleglass who was one of the bank officials kidnapped. He is a very courageous man for the manner in which he spoke out about how it affected him to know that the perpetrators must have been people who lived near him and were in a position to watch him and his family. They told him they knew about him, his brother, father and mother, brother’s girlfriend and threatened that unless he did as he was told, they would be killed. It must have been an appalling experience, from which I am quite sure none of them will recover.
There are two more people in the case who have not spoken out yet. I do not blame them since they are probably still in a state of extended shock. I am referring to the other bank official and his wife who was abandoned in a forest. If the woman had fallen down a cliff, would it have been her fault because she did not know the way out of the forest? This was a truly shocking terrorist crime and it can only be described as such. This incident will affect the woman for the rest of her life.
Hostage taking was popular at one stage in the Republic of Ireland. Some people were taken and ransoms paid but there was little publicity about these crimes. Some years ago I was involved in fund-raising and I asked one of my fellow fund-raisers if she thought a particular man and his wife would buy tickets. I realised I did not know the man’s wife at all and asked my colleague if he did indeed have a wife. My colleague informed me that the man had a wife but that she was virtually a recluse as she was kidnapped 30 years previously by the IRA and has hardly come out since. The woman was approximately 50 years old at the time and although she had a husband and children and all that could be desired in terms of a good home, an income and so on, she is a recluse. These are not victimless crimes and that woman will be a victim of that kidnapping for the rest of her life. How many other people are in this position? Not all the kidnappings had been made as public as one might think. For example, I did not know about that particular case.
I was on the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and was present on the afternoon of the Canary Wharf bombing. There were few people there and I do not know if the Minister was present but the two Sinn Féin representatives, Pat Doherty and Rita O’Hare, were present. They were very courageous and were very good contributors to the forum. When the bomb exploded, killing two people — one a newspaper vendor whom I am sure had nothing against the Minister, me or anyone else in Ireland — the forum had to be suspended by Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness because the IRA ceasefire had broken. We were all pretty miserable winding up and leaving the forum. Pat Doherty and Rita O’Hare were as disappointed and concerned as the rest of us. However, members of Sinn Féin will have to do more than that. They will have to say that those in the IRA who commit these dreadful crimes are criminals and that these are terrorist activities. The Taoiseach believes the IRA was involved in that robbery. Considering the time and energy he has put into the peace process and knowing what those words would mean, I cannot but believe he has good evidence to the contrary. We must realise that hostages in Ireland are in as bad a situation as hostages anywhere else. We must realise that those who take hostages in this country are just as criminal and terroristic as those we easily call terrorists when applying it to Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else. I commend this section. However, it is a great pity that it takes us so long to ratify many of the conventions we admit are most worthy and sign up to at once.
Dr. Mansergh: I welcome the Bill and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the House. The Bill is entitled the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 and was debated in the Dáil in 2003. I am sure there are good reasons and explanations as to why it has taken so long to come to the Seanad. As they have not been stated, I am sure the Minister will outline them in his reply.
The essential point of this legislation is that it is an expression of international solidarity. Terrorism is a problem that affects us all and it is important there are no gaps in the different ways that member states deal with the problem. As seen with the Madrid bombings, in principle, any state is vulnerable to attack. Without intending to cause any offence, such attacks fall on the just and the unjust alike.
While the modern international problem has been with us for at least 30 years, arguably it goes back 200 years. The First World War was caused by the assassination of an heir to a throne. Over the holidays, I read a book about the attempted bombing in 1800 of the First Consul, Napoleon. The modern phenomenon arises from the fact that a conventional war cannot be won by those groups who resort to terrorism. Iraq is a clear illustration of this point. While Saddam’s conventional forces were quickly defeated, the aftermath has gone on with some intensity. The Minister may have seen al-Zarqawi’s recent declaration in which he denounced candidates in the forthcoming Iraqi elections as “demi-idols” and voters as “infidels”. In The Independent of 24 January, he was quoted as saying “we have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology”. There is no doubt that terrorism is resorted to by people who cannot get a democratic mandate or who only have the support of a small section of the population. This is clear in the Basque country. In Northern Ireland, as long as the IRA was engaged in a terror campaign, the republican movement never had a majority of the Nationalist vote.
I have no reason to believe that the Minister does not agree that terrorism cannot be defeated by security measures alone. Realising this does not mean that one should not engage in all the proper security measures. However, it must be recognised there are other dimensions and problems that require political, economic and social approaches, complementary to combatting terrorism. There also needs to be a recognition, through firmness of the Government’s concerns, in general, that without a legitimate cause terrorism does not serve the causes it purports to serve. I define a legitimate cause as a struggle for self-determination with the support of the majority of the population. That is clear in the Northern Ireland situation where it would be hard to argue that a united Ireland is closer today as a result of 30 years of conflict than it was in the late 1960s. While other justifications can be put forward, it did not advance one iota the promotion of a united Ireland.
It is welcome that the Minister has shown no sign of going in the direction, which unfortunately some democratic governments have, of the total suspension of the rule of law and the legal no-man’s land of Guantanamo Bay. I hope we will not go down that route. The Minister is not a member of the Government who would describe himself as a socialist.
Dr. Mansergh: However, I hope he will not follow the example of the recently retired David Blunkett and some of the illiberal policies being pursued across the water. Historically, it is true Ireland had limited internment for certain periods, but it did not involve torture.
Recently, I again watched Robert Bolt’s film of Sir Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons. More is asked by one of his acolytes if it would be right to suspend the law in pursuit of the devil. He replies that it would not as there then would be no protection against the devil. I am happy with the civil liberties provisions, contained in section 6(5), that make clear that legitimate protests of various kinds are not covered by the Bill. Similarly, I appreciate the section which states that those struggling against what everyone would call a tyranny are not deemed terrorists. Were von Stauffenberg and those who placed the bomb under Hitler’s table terrorists by our definition? Clearly not.
Senator Henry referred to the question of hostages which has a domestic dimension considering the horrifying experience of the recent bank raid and also in the case of Margaret Hassan. I am glad that the Tipperary Peace Prize has been awarded posthumously to her. It is right that there is a distaste about the way in which Jean McConville was murdered. There is a strong suspicion, apart from every other evil aspect of it, that it had a sectarian dimension.
The biggest contribution that Ireland can make is to ensure that paramilitaries and terrorism disappear from our shores. Much progress has been made which has inspired other countries. Spain and the Basque country, although the situations are different, closely follow what happens in the Northern Ireland peace process. We have the potential to set an example. Our experience is not a recent problem. The truth is that the legacy of the War of Independence and Civil War period — I would in principle be supportive of the legitimacy of the War of Independence — lasted throughout the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Detective Inspector Curtin was shot dead at the gates of the house in which I live in Tipperary, which was let when my father was young, and he breathed his last in the study where I work.
There have been persistent statements and innuendo from people critical of the Government and the way it has conducted both the peace process and its security that, out of consideration for people, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda and so on are soft on those who engage in paramilitary activity. I am sure the Minister will have no difficulty stating clearly and unequivocally that the gardaí are neither hampered nor discouraged in any way from pursuing those involved in crime and terrorism.
Crises can be beneficial. The assassination of Kevin O’Higgins brought Fianna Fáil into the Dáil in 1927 within approximately one month. We are probably at such a crisis now because there has been ample time and an ample transition period to deal with this issue. The time has come for an unequivocal commitment to democracy by everyone. Let us remember that modern republicanism in Ireland started with the Society of the United Irishmen, which began as a democratic constitutional organisation. Things went wrong because democracy at that time was equated with subversion. It is time to get back to democratic principles.
Ms Tuffy: Senator Cummins referred to the delay in bringing the legislation to this House. One of the problems about such a delay, even though it is not the longest delay in bringing a Bill to this House, is that the legislation is no longer under the media spotlight. Many criticisms of the legislation have been forgotten. The criticisms of the legislation made in 2002 and 2003 stand.
Senator Mansergh said the legislation is an expression of international solidarity. We must remind ourselves that we are working in the context of a very different international scene where governments with which we traditionally work are introducing questionable responses to terrorism. There is the example of the United States which introduced the detention of people without trial in Guantanamo Bay. Today, Mr. Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary in the UK, from which we have inherited our legal system, announced that the detention without trial of terror suspects will be replaced with a system of control orders. These will include curfews, tagging and a requirement for suspects to remain at their premises. These orders will apply equally to foreign suspects and British citizens suspected of international or domestic terrorism. Such orders would be preventative. What struck me is that Irish people would be subject to this new legislation when it is implemented in the UK. We have had much experience of Irish people who were the subject of miscarriages of justice. This is partly as a result of draconian legislation in the past. If anyone should have learned from the mistakes of going down this path, Irish people should have done so.
The definition of “terrorist activity” is an act being committed with the intention of seriously intimidating a population and unduly compelling a government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a state or an international organisation. This definition is far-reaching. I do not believe it is the safeguard people might think it is or the Minister has indicated it is. It is saying that it is not in itself a sufficient basis to use it against people. In other words, it could be a basis, but it is not a sufficient basis. This means that a person involved in a protest, advocacy or dissent or engaged in a strike, lockout or other industrial action could have that used against them. The act might not be sufficient in itself but it could be used against people, which could have far-reaching consequences. That this is included in the Bill makes it more likely that it would be taken on board by a court. I am not convinced it is the protection it is supposed to be.
Subsection (6) refers to an act being committed in the opinion of the Attorney General and that no further proceedings in the matter may be taken except with the consent of the Attorney General. However, it allows for remanding in custody. I would like clarification on whether the person could be remanded indefinitely in the meantime. There is a presumption that a court can be satisfied that it is reasonable to assume the act is committed with a terrorist intention. It is outlined in the Act that the person shall be presumed, unless the court is satisfied to the contrary, to have committed or attempted to commit the act. I understand this was not included in the framework decision. My understanding it that this measure is being introduced by the Government without its being compelled in any way by the international community. The Minister may contradict me if I am wrong. A rebuttable presumption about intent is the opposite to the way our legal system is usually intended to work. I have serious concerns about this and other aspects of the legislation.
Reference was made to the need to implement the recommendations of the Hederman report. Is this the Government’s response to the report because it goes in the opposite direction to what the report intended? This criticism has been made and I am concerned that it is normalising emergency type legislation. The Bill is not being introduced as a temporary measure. It does not have the review provisions that exist in regard to offences against the State legislation. It was argued in the Dáil that it should include these provisions. I agree with the point of view that terrorism is an attack on human rights and we must do what we can as a society to prevent it. At the same time one must keep things in perspective in terms of laws. It is important to put in place measures and resource them to ensure that our society is safe. We must guard against introducing laws which remove rights, which are not as effective as they are meant to be and which could cause more dissent in our society.
Mr. Mooney: I too welcome the Minister to the House. The Chinese have a phrase about living in interesting times, which I have discovered is more a negative than a positive, the inference being that if one may live in interesting times, one does not live in interesting times. We do indeed live in interesting times. I was inspired by the alliterations of my esteemed friend and colleague, Senator Mansergh, to recall the famous opening words of Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities - “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. In the context of this Bill and the wider issues that have focused the minds of the Government and the Minister in particular over the past few weeks, that is probably an apt comment on today’s mood.
It is ironic that we are discussing an important piece of anti-terrorist legislation at a time when an organisation which we all knew never accepted the legitimacy of this State, fronted by a political organisation with a philosophy quite separate from the rest of us, is at last unmasked, as it were. On the Order of Business I said that I was not at all surprised that the IRA-Sinn Féin republican movement can make a distinction between what it defines as a crime and something being tactically wrong because that movement has always believed it is the legitimate army of this country and that Sinn Féin is the legitimate government-in-waiting of this country. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Government in its entirety are to be commended on reflecting the overwhelming view of the Irish people that we espouse, support and defend democratic values in this society. Long may that be so.
All of us were somewhat protected over the past decade by a concerned political establishment, a pliant media and, sadly, by an uninformed public from the fact that we were dealing with an organisation which sees itself as taking the holy grail of republicanism from the first Dáil right through each decade and each Administration which this country has democratically elected. It is as if that organisation’s members live in a parallel universe. They also have their own parallel language —“whatever you are having yourself”. All of that has come into the open in the past few weeks, which is right and proper.
Like many others, I was one of the people who believed that by drawing Sinn Féin into the political process, into the mainstream political activity of this democracy, a time would come, not too far in the distance — I hoped it would come at the 2007 general election — when politicians on all sides would be able to debate real politics with Sinn Féin and that the latter would be able to debate its policies, such as they are. However, I found it very frustrating and difficult when the leaders of the republican movement appeared nightly on the six o’clock news speaking on one subject — peace, supposedly involving the equality agenda and the democratic mandate, when the events of recent weeks have shown that to be false. Until such time as the movement clarifies its situation we must take it that it does not accept the legitimacy of this State or of this Government to frame laws for the protection of citizens to define criminality and terrorism. The latter is being defined by this Bill.
The comments made and inferences drawn by the threats, implied or otherwise, of the republican leadership in defending its view that the IRA was not involved in the bank robbery in Belfast had a chilling dimension. I thought this language was long gone from Irish society, that it was consigned to the history books. I do not believe that the IRA or any other paramilitary organisation operating in a democratic society — Basque separatists were mentioned as an example — could flourish or even advance its military agenda in the current international climate. Read in detail, the legislation before us underpins that point. After the events of 11 September 2001, all is changed —“changed utterly”, as W.B. Yeats said in another context. I was hoping that the “terrible beauty” had not been born but it seems that, as I said earlier, it has not left us. For the first time, the legislation before us is an example of international solidarity in the face of a real global threat to the democratic values we all hold dear.
I belong to the school of thought which has a sneaking feeling that the international political establishment can also talk up a crisis. If one tells one’s people often enough and for long enough that there will be a threat — America is an example — people live in fear constantly. The entire political philosophy of the Bush Administration for the future is security focused. It is creating an environment in which the “home of the brave” and the “land of the free” is no longer the shining light which it was for other generations because people are genuinely afraid. I do not believe that they have any real need to be so afraid but the fear comes from the events of 11 September 2001, from what is going on in Iraq and from the activities of al-Qaeda. That fear pushes democratic governments into taking decisions such as this because they feel helpless in the face of terrorist activity.
How does one respond to someone who wants to plant a bomb in a shop to blow up women and children? How does one respond to what is happening in Iraq in a cohesive, militarily viable and focused way? Standing armies fight standing wars. Democracies do the best they can within the framework of the law to ensure they protect their citizens against this sort of threat but, as an American president once said, no matter how much secret service protection a person is given, if they want to get one, they will do so in the end. All one can do therefore is reflect the values one has been elected by the people to reflect in a democratic society and to frame legislation which will protect them, their homes and families in so far as is humanly possible, as well as protecting our own democratic way of life.
It is time we stopped being defensive about propagating the democratic way of life. We hear George Bush and other American leaders propagating it all the time. Why do we not speak similarly more often? In the past few months, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has increasingly put across that message and it is not something to which he came fresh.
Mr. Mooney: Regardless of whether we are doing so, no one could criticise successive Fianna Fáil Administrations in a time of crisis in this country when it came to questions regarding illegitimate organisations or a democratically elected government. Without going back into history, those Administrations acted in a very pro-active manner. This Government and any government of which Senator Cummins’s party would be a member would take equally strong action. Over the past few years we were lured into a false feeling of security and did not address the real terror among us. We are now saying unequivocally and unambiguously that one is either on the democratic side or the criminal side. Those on the latter side are engaged in criminal activity. One can wrap it up in notions of nobility and the green flag, but those people have no mandate from the people for what they have been doing. As Senator Mansergh so eloquently asked, after 30 years of war and devastation and 3,500 lost lives, what did that achieve in terms of advancing a united Ireland? I suggest the answer he did — nothing. As a young teenager, I went to London and became a member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association when it was a time of peaceful protest in 1969 to 1970. I walked in many such protests from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square. These protests were about “one man, one vote”, the ending of the Special Powers Act, the equality agenda and so forth. The cause was moving forward and being advanced. Stormont fell, the British Government took action and the Irish Government became involved. Then it all went horribly wrong, because the Provos got involved and decided that matters were not moving fast enough. They decided to start shooting the Brits because all they knew was “Brits out”. I do not have any real sympathy for the republican movement in that context. It has continued to justify what it has done over the past 30 years, culminating in the disgraceful remarks of Mr. Mitchel McLaughlin, when he could not bring himself to admit that what happened to Mrs. Jean McConville was heinous and a cruel, foul murder, beyond saying, “But it was wrong”.
My final comment relates to a section of the Bill as introduced by the Minister in the Dáil aimed at trying to head off those who support terrorism. I believe this has been a fundamental problem in this State, as regards the indigenous threat. I may be straying somewhat, but if this legislation had been framed at the time of the trial of those who killed Garda Jerry McCabe, perhaps due process might have taken a different direction because there was large-scale intimidation of witnesses. If the legislation had been there, more definitive evidence might have been brought before the judges, who could then have decided whether the people involved were supporting a cause, forced into the action they took or whatever. I am not taking that case in isolation, and also recall several other instances. That is an important addition to the legislation. As I said at the outset, it is concerned with expressing international solidarity as a sovereign independent country which fully supports the ideals of the United Nations. I believe we are to be commended for taking action on this matter, notwithstanding the fact that the legislation was, perhaps, somewhat delayed. We are going to ratify three important UN conventions. That is to advance another stage in the long journey referred to by Robert Emmett when he said, “When my country takes its place among the nations of the earth...” We are moving in the right direction in taking our place in the international brotherhood of democratic nations and I commend the Bill.
Mr. McHugh: I welcome the Minister to the House and the proposed legislation, purely in the context of recent criminal activities and also that of 11 September and the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004. I could continue with a litany of different types of international terrorism. The lay person accepts that international terrorism is a problem. It is a serious issue that has to be challenged, with a strategy being put in place. However, an ambiguity exists among the laity as regards the measures being enacted and strategies being put in place specifically by the US Administration. Anyone with common sense could not accept the rationale for entering Iraq on the grounds that there were weapons of mass destruction there. There were no weapons of mass destruction, therefore, logic is out the window.
In terms of the confusion and ambiguity that exists in Ireland, matters are not as simplistic as people, including those in Government circles, would like them to be as regards curing the ills or trying to engineer a settlement of the historical dispute in Northern Ireland. If I walk 20 miles across the Border from Letterkenny to Derry, to Free Derry Corner, I am confronted by a large mural of the Palestinian flag. The ambiguity associated with that as regards people who are trying to move forward and evolve in a civilised manner, sends out many connotations. A relationship may exist in terms of oppression through the years, in colonisation by respective countries, but the ambiguity as regards the ordinary citizen living in Northern Ireland or in this State, is very palpable. I read yesterday in the Irish News that an esteemed journalist, Ms Nell McCafferty, believed that the IRA was not involved in the bank robbery in Belfast. That is her opinion. She bases it on the fact that she has asked senior ranking people within the IRA if they had robbed the bank, and they said “No”. That is confusion and ambiguity. One may go on a Saturday night to a nightclub in Derry and get £1,000 sterling in Northern Bank notes for £250 sterling. Laundering of money is taking place on the doorsteps in Nationalist communities in Derry.
In terms of the money laundering aspects of the legislation, will the Minister say where these take effect? How does the Bill protect Border counties on the Republic side, because this activity is large-scale and widespread across nightclubs, businesses and pubs in Northern Ireland as a result of this bank raid? If one asks in Nationalist communities who was responsible for the bank raid, one will be told it was the IRA. That is the information we are getting and it is the word on the street. We must always take note of what we hear on the grapevine. No matter what legislation we enact on this side of the Border, however, or how much support we give the Garda, we still need a similar police network in Northern Ireland with which it can work in a co-operative manner. That is not happening and will not happen until all members of the community have full confidence in their security system, the PSNI. Mr. Denis Bradley outlines on a constant basis the need for all political parties to become involved in the PSNI. We can talk about peace processes and power sharing at a political level, but the work must be done on the ground. In order to counteract criminal behaviour at a grassroots level there must be confidence in the justice system. We must start at the local level within communities in Northern Ireland.
We cannot stereotype the Northern Ireland culture. There are so many different aspects to it. However, there are elements within the Nationalist community — whether it be a culture or a way of life — that still believe it is acceptable to carry out criminal behaviour. It is not on for a political party such as Sinn Féin to be constantly talking about its electoral mandate. I believe Mr. Martin McGuinness keeps referring to 350,000 voters North and South as Sinn Féin’s electoral mandate. I believe I am in politics for the larger community. I would warn Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats as regards something touched on by Senator Mooney. On the one hand, Sinn Féin is talking about its electoral mandate. Now, all of a sudden Fianna Fáil is talking about its own electoral mandate and the PDs are looking at theirs. It is not about electoral mandates, but rather about finding a lasting solution to the problems of Northern Ireland.
It is not about working and establishing how many people vote for one, but rather about a lasting solution. At the last round of negotiations the British and Irish Governments failed. They were not the first administrations to fail. There have been successive failures. Today’s debate is not about the peace process, but if we are to move forward in this regard, criminality has to be addressed.
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