Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - National Emergency.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

28 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to propose the rescinding of the Offences Against the State Acts and the state of emergency which has existed for many years. [2174/94]

Liz O'Donnell

Question:

77 Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to abolish the Emergency Powers Act and to review the Offences Against the State Act and the Special Criminal Court; if she will bring proposals in this regard to Government; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2014/94]

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

94 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice the Government's proposals, if any, for the lifting of the state of emergency and the review of the operation of the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1942/94]

Nora Owen

Question:

100 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Justice if she intends to abolish the Special Criminal Court. [1940/94]

John Bruton

Question:

161 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Justice the plans, if any, she has to end the State of Emergency and the Special Criminal Court in view of the Government's acceptance that the IRA cessation of violence is permanent; and, if not, the reason therefore. [1999/94]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 28, 77, 94, 100 and 161 together.

Earlier today, the Government approved, on my proposal, the moving of resolutions in both Houses of the Oireachtas for the purpose of ending the national emergency which Dáil and Seanad Éireann resolved to exist on 1 September 1976.

The national emergency which the Oireachtas declared to exist in 1976 arose, as the terms of the resolutions adopted on that occasion made clear, from the armed conflict taking place in Northern Ireland. That armed conflict has thankfully now come to an end arising from the complete cessation of military operations by the Provisional IRA as and from 31 August and the more recent decision by the combined Loyalist military command on 13 October to universally cease all operational hostilities. The Government intends to respond to that new situation by moving resolutions to end the national emergency.

The Government believes that the ending of the national emergency will give symbolic expression to the new hope and opportunities created by those developments. We believe them to represent a decisive turning point in the history of our island to which the House will want to respond.

The issues that would be raised in reviewing the operation of the Special Criminal Court or more generally the Offences Against the State Acts, 1939-85 are quite different from those which arise in connection with ending the national emergency. The former would require wide consultation and extremely careful study — the Offences Against the State Acts, which contain provision for the operation of Special Courts, form part of our wider criminal law. In the absence of such consultation and study I am not at this point in a position to signal any proposals in this regard.

I thank the Minister for her reply. I would like to see the national emergency ended at the earliest possible time in keeping with the needs of the country. Is the Minister satisfied that if the national emergency is ended, the remaining powers, including the continuing existence of the Special Criminal Court, will be sufficient to deal with new organisations such as the INRA as well as the INLA, freelance terrorists and the sinister development of the contract murderer?

I am so satisfied.

When will she be in a position to bring the resolutions she is considering before the House?

As happened in 1976, those resolutions will be moved by the Taoiseach in both Houses and this will be done as soon as agreement can be reached between the Whips.