Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, 1998: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

We are all conscious of the background against which this Bill is being introduced. The tragic events in Omagh just over two weeks ago, when 28 men, women and children lost their lives and when many more were seriously injured, are a stark reminder of the threat which groups opposed to the British-Irish Agreement continue to pose. They have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of the people who voted overwhelmingly, North and South, in favour of the Agreement in concurrent referenda in May. They now have recourse only to terror and violence to pursue their campaign of opposition to the Agreement. Their actions, culminating in the horror which was Omagh, have had the opposite effect: they have united the Irish people in rejection of their methods and in a determination that they should not be allowed to succeed in undermining the Agreement.

I welcome the fact that the strength of that public reaction has played its part in prompting a re-examination by groups opposed to the Agreement of the options now open to them. The decision by the INLA to call a ceasefire is to be welcomed. The decision by the Real IRA to suspend armed operations while it engages in internal consultations is hopefully a precursor to a similar decision on its part. While those decisions can provide little comfort to the victims of the Omagh tragedy and other attacks, they serve to show the power of the community response in the new situation created by the British-Irish Agreement. Both the so-called Real IRA and the Continuity IRA must be left in no doubt about the consequences of any further vacillation on their part: they will continue to meet a determined response from the Government and the security forces and they will not be allowed to thwart the will of the people.

What is of paramount importance now is that those who seek to oppose the British-Irish Agreement through violence must not be allowed to succeed in putting at nought the clearly expressed will of the people. We cannot allow ourselves to be deflected from our commitment to secure full implementation of the Agreement by the actions of a tiny and unrepresentative minority. We, as public representatives, must not only remain faithful to the mandate we have received but we must renew our commitment to the Agreement's implementation in all its aspects. The best possible answer to those groups remains the Agreement itself, which offers the prospect of the very thing they seek to destroy — the possibility of a new beginning and a peaceful future based on the principles of partnership, equality and mutual respect.

The Government has worked closely with the British Government in determining the overall response which should and must be made to the Omagh tragedy. Both Governments have reconfirmed their commitment to the British-Irish Agreement and are actively engaged on moving forward with implementation of the Agreement in all its aspects. Against that background, I note the significance of yesterday's statement by the Sinn Féin president and the broad welcome it has received. Both Governments are continuing to work closely in determining the appropriate response to the Omagh tragedy. My meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr. Mo Mowlam, in the immediate aftermath of that atrocity was part of that process which is continuing in the form of high level contacts between the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána and the Chief Constable of the RUC. The introduction of this Bill is another element of that response which is mirrored by the introduction of parallel legislation in the British parliament today. The unity of purpose of the people of these islands in the face of the Omagh atrocity is therefore matched by a common and co-ordinated response on the part of their two Governments.

The Government is satisfied that the proposals in the Bill represent a measured and balanced response proportionate to the threat which the activities of groups opposed to the Agreement pose. They are measures which have been identified as offering potential in usefully supplementing the existing provisions of the Offences against the State Acts. The Government is further satisfied on the advice available to it that the measures the Bill contains are consistent with the Constitution and its international human rights obligations. The measures it has decided on are moreover intended to represent a focused response which will have particular relevance in the context of the activities of groups such as the Real IRA. The passage of this legislation will, therefore, be an important step in strengthening the powers available to the Garda for the purpose of countering such groups and those who provide them with support.

The measures in the Bill are directed to four essential purposes. First, the Bill makes changes to the rules of evidence which currently apply to the offence of membership of an unlawful organisation and more generally for the purpose of other offences under the Offences against the State Acts and scheduled offences under those Acts. Second, the Bill will create certain new substantive offences of particular relevance to the activities of unlawful organisations and those who provide support for them. Third, it will strengthen the hands of the courts in respect of those who provide support to the activities of unlawful organisations or engage in offences on their behalf. Fourth, it will extend the maximum period of detention permitted under section 30 of the Offences against the State Act.

Three changes are proposed in regard to evidentiary matters. The principal changes are contained in sections 2 to 5. Section 2 makes specific reference to the offence of membership of an unlawful organisation and is one of the key provisions of the Bill. Its effect will be to provide that where, in any proceedings against a person in regard to that charge, evidence is given that the accused failed to answer or gave false or misleading answers to any question material to the investigation of the offence while being questioned in regard to that offence, the court may draw such inferences from that failure or from the furnishing of a false or misleading reply as appear proper.

The section further provides that references to any question material to the investigation of the offence includes any references to any question requesting the accused to give a full account of his or her movements, actions, activities or associations during any specified period. It also provides that any such inference may be treated as or as capable of amounting to corroboration of any other evidence relating to the offence of membership of an unlawful organisation. The section contains two important safeguards. It provides that it will not have effect unless the accused was told in ordinary language what the effect of a failure to answer or a false or misleading answer might be and provides that a person shall not be convicted solely on an inference drawn from a failure to answer a question or from the furnishing of a false or misleading reply.

The section will also only have effect in terms of the failure to answer a question or the furnishing of a false or misleading response in reply to a question after the coming into effect of the Act. Two related changes to the Offences against the State Acts are made by sections 4 and 13.

Section 4, which amends section 3 of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act, 1972, makes a related and consequential change. The effect of the existing section 3 of the 1972 Act — which provides that any statement or conduct by an accused implying or leading to a reasonable inference that he was at a material time a member of an unlawful organisation shall, when proceeded against for membership, be evidence that he was then such a member — was also to define the expression "conduct" as including an omission by an accused person to deny published reports that he was a member of an unlawful organisation. The change being made by section 4 will be to align the definition of conduct with the expression used in section 2 of the Bill; that is, conduct is being defined to include movements, actions, activities or associations in addition to the failure to deny such a report.

A further related change is being made by section 13 which provides that section 52 of the 1939 Act — which provides for an offence of failing to give specified information to the gardaí — will not have effect unless, immediately before a demand for information is made of a person under that section, the person is informed in ordinary language of the fact that the demand is being made under that section and what the consequences are of failing to give an answer or furnishing information which is false or misleading.

Section 3 of the Bill, which makes the second important change in the area of evidence, also has specific reference to the offence of membership of an unlawful organisation. It provides that in proceedings for such an offence the accused shall not, without leave of the court, call any other person to give evidence on his or her behalf unless notice has been given of his or her intention to do so. The procedures to be followed in this regard are set out in subsections (2) to (7) of the section which are closely modelled on the existing provisions of our criminal law in relation to the requirement to give notice of an alibi an accused intends to rely on for the purpose of his trial. The section also provides that the requirement in relation to the giving of notice will not apply to a witness whose evidence is solely in relation to the matter of sentence. I might add, for the information of the House, that the question of introducing a general provision along these lines into our criminal law in the case of serious offences is the subject of a recommendation in a report I have recently received from an expert group I set up earlier this year to consider changes in the criminal law arising out of recommendations made in the report of the steering group on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Garda Síochána.

The third change in the area of evidence is being made by section 5. This section is not restricted to the offence of membership but will, provided that the offence carries a penalty of five years' imprisonment or more, have application to any offence under the Offences against the State Acts, scheduled offences for the purpose of the 1939 Act and offences arising out of the same set of facts as an offence under the Acts or a scheduled offence. The effect of this section, which is closely based on a similar provision in the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996, will be to allow a court to draw inferences where the accused relies on a fact in his or her defence that he or she could reasonably have been expected to mention during questioning or on being charged but did not do so. This section, as with section 2, incorporates important safeguards whereby it will not have effect unless the accused was told in ordinary language what the effect of a failure to mention such a fact might be and provides that a person shall not be convicted solely on an inference drawn from such a failure. Similarly, the section will only have effect in relation to a failure to mention such a fact if the failure occurred after the coming into effect of the Act.

I think it important to point out at this stage there is not and could not be in the changes we are proposing any interference with the court's responsibility under our criminal law to convict an accused only where it is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of the accused's guilt of the offence charged.

The Bill also creates certain new substantive offences. There are five such offences: directing an unlawful organisation; possession of articles for purposes connected with certain offences; unlawful collection of information; withholding information; and training persons in the making or use of firearms, etc.

Section 6 establishes the offence of directing, at any level of the organisation's structure, the activities of an organisation in respect of which a suppression order has been made under the Offences against the State Act, 1939. That offence will attract a penalty of up to life imprisonment.

Section 7 will make it an offence to possess articles in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that the article in his or her possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of specified firearms or explosives offences. The section also provides that it will be a defence to prove that the materials were not in the person's possession for such purposes. This offence will attract a penalty of a fine or imprisonment up to ten years or both.

Section 8 will make it an offence to collect, record or possess information which is of such a nature that it is likely to be useful to members of an unlawful organisation in the commission of serious offences. A serious offence is defined for the purpose of the section as an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term of five years or more involving loss of human life, serious personal injury, false imprisonment or serious loss or damage to property or a serious risk of any such loss, injury, imprisonment or damage and includes an act or omission done or made outside the State which would be such an offence if done within the State. The section also provides that it will be a defence to prove that the information in question was not being collected etc. for the purpose of being used in the commission of a serious offence. The offence of unlawful collection of information will attract a penalty or a fine or imprisonment for up to ten years or both.

Section 9 will make it an offence to withhold information which a person knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by any other person of a serious offence or securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for such an offence and who fails without reasonable excuse to disclose such information to a member of the Garda Síochána. A serious offence is defined for this purpose in the same terms as for section 8. An amendment, which I will bring forward on Committee Stage, will further clarify the position in this regard. The penalty which will attach to the offence is a fine or imprisonment of up to five years or both.

Section 12 will make it an offence for a person to instruct or train another person in the making or use of firearms or explosives or to receive such training without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. This offence will attract a penalty of a fine or imprisonment up to ten years or both.

These offences are of a type that are likely to be committed by members of unlawful organisations arising from the activities of such groups. They are therefore targeted at specific activities, such as the collection of information which would be of assistance in planning terrorist attacks or the possession of material which can be used in the making of improvised explosive devices, in which members or supporters of such groups can and do engage. They will therefore have limited application. Likewise the offence of directing an unlawful organisation will call for evidence over and above that of membership of such an organisation. It seems nevertheless right to provide for such an offence which will be capable of attracting the higher penalty of life imprisonment to deal with circumstances where such evidence may exist. The offence of withholding information has a wider potential application, but the message it is intended to underscore is that it is the duty of persons who have knowledge of planned offences involving death, serious injury or destruction or information which would lead to the conviction of those responsible for such offences to make that information available to the Garda. The effect of section 14 will be to make these new offences scheduled offences for the purposes of Part V of the 1939 Act. That will mean that persons suspected of committing such offences will be liable to arrest under section 30 of the 1939 Act and may be charged before the Special Criminal Court in respect of such offences on the direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The effect of the amendment to the Schedule to the Bail Act, 1997, which is being made by section 16 will be to enable these offences to be regarded as serious offences for the purposes of that Act when bail applications are being considered. The Bill is also intended to strengthen the powers of the courts in respect of those who provide support to the activities of unlawful organisations or engage in offences on their behalf. It contains two measures to this end.

The first of these is the provision in section 15 which specifies that the court may impose unlimited fines in relation to the four principal offences dealing with possession of firearms and explosives. The offences concerned are possession of a firearm or ammunition with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property contrary to section 15 of the Firearms Act, 1925; possession of a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances contrary to section 27A of the Firearms Act 1964; possession of explosive substances contrary to section 3; and making or possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances contrary to section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1883.

The second such measure is the provision in section 17 to amend section 61 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, which deals with the forfeiture of property used for the purpose of committing or facilitating the commission of an offence or intended to be used for that purpose in circumstances where a person has been convicted of an offence. The effect of the change being made by section 17 is to provide that, in the case of persons convicted of specified offences relating to the possession of firearms or explosives, a court will be required to order the forfeiture of such property unless it is satisfied that there would be a serious risk of injustice if it made such an order. The provisions of section 61 apply to both real and personal property and will therefore permit the seizure of lands on which arms are stored, should such a course be warranted.

The fourth essential purpose of the Bill is to extend the maximum period of detention permitted under section 30 of the Offences against the State Act — which is 48 hours at present — in two separate circumstances. First, section 10 will allow a District Court judge to authorise the detention of a person for a further period not exceeding 24 hours, on the application of an officer of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent, provided that the District Court judge is satisfied that the further detention is necessary for the proper investigation of the offence concerned and that the investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously. I intend to introduce an amendment on Committee Stage to make it clear that the person being detained is entitled to be present in court during the application and to make submissions or to have submissions made on his behalf. Secondly, section 11 will also allow a District Court judge to permit the re-arrest and detention of a person, in respect of an offence for which he or she was previously detained but released without charge, for a further period which again is not to exceed 24 hours in circumstances where the District Court judge is satisfied, on information supplied on oath by a member of the Garda Síochána, that further information has come to the knowledge of the Garda Síochána about that person's suspected participation in the offence about which they wish to question the suspect.

The Bill finally contains a review mechanism. Section 18 provides that the provisions of the Bill other than sections 1, 13, 15, 16, 18 itself and 19 will cease to be in operation on 31 December 2000 unless a resolution has been passed by each House of the Oireachtas resolving that the section should continue to be in operation. The remaining sections of the Bill are in standard form and contain the necessary definitions in section 1 and provision for the Bill's short title, construction and collective citation in section 19.

Passage of this Bill will further strengthen our law for the purpose of tackling those groups, such as the Real IRA, who have yet to declare a complete ending of their campaigns of violence. The Bill itself is only one element of a package of measures on the security and legislative fronts designed to counter the activities of those who engage in violence. The other measures which are being taken include the ongoing examination of means of further enhancing police operational capacity on both sides of the Border being undertaken by the Garda Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the RUC who will report back to me and the Secretary of State on the matter shortly; the allocation of additional resources to the Garda Síochána for the purpose of countering the threat which dissident groups continue to pose, and my decision to bring the provisions of the Bail Act, 1997, into force in respect of persons charged before the Special Criminal Court to allow the courts to take into account the possibility of the commission of offences if the person was granted bail in parallel with the passage of this Bill.

It would be wrong to pretend that particular legislation or indeed any other security measure can provide a cast iron guarantee that terrorist activity will cease or that terrorist attempts will not succeed. There are no simple solutions to the problem of terrorism. If there were, they would have been tried and have succeeded many years ago. We will continue to depend heavily on the professionalism of the Garda Síochána who have had considerable success in countering the activities of the Real IRA and preventing attacks in Northern Ireland and Britain.

A question which has been raised is why this legislation was not introduced when the threat posed by the Real IRA began to manifest itself. The same question could reasonably have been addressed to both Governments over the past 30 years when the level of threat posed by terrorist activity was much higher than it has been since the latest IRA and Loyalist ceasefires began.

Timing the introduction of particularly tough criminal law measures such as those before the House is very much a matter of judgment and successive Governments have tried conscientiously to respond with legislative and other measures in a way that was reasonable and proportionate.

Rather than appear to blame successive Governments for not introducing measures of this nature before now, we should acknowledge that they are definitely needed now and represent an appropriate and proportionate response in circumstances where a terrorist grouping has shown its willingness, against the clearly expressed will of the people, to commit carnage on a scale never witnessed before. We should keep the focus not on what might or might not have been done by Governments over the years, but on the absolute need to do all in our power to thwart those who are capable of atrocities like Omagh.

It is my hope that the combined effect of the enactment of the Bill and the measures to which I referred will be to significantly enhance the capacity of the State as a whole to tackle such groups. More than that, I hope these measures will provide a rallying point for those, the vast majority, who want to see an end to such violence for good and that the revulsion which we all feel in the aftermath of the Omagh atrocity should not be allowed to dim with the passage of time.

Now is the time for those groups which have yet to declare a definitive ceasefire to renounce such violence and to prove in word and deed that they mean what they say. The British-Irish Agreement offers a unique opportunity for both traditions on this island to live together in stability and equality. It offers a means whereby the different relationships which bind us together can be acknowledged and developed. The two Governments are determined to press ahead with the implementation of the Agreement and the commitments contained in it.

I take this opportunity to put those who would still have recourse to violence on notice. The Government will not allow any group to destabilise the British-Irish Agreement or subvert the will of the people. The Government will closely monitor the efficacy of the measures to which I referred and will not shirk from taking other measures should they prove necessary to curb their activities.

I described the measures in the Bill as harsh on its publication. It gives me no pleasure to be the Minister who introduces such a Bill. I referred to the review mechanism the Bill contains which will enable the House to consider the continuing necessity for the measures for which the Bill provides no later than 31 December 2000. That date was fixed by reference to the commitment contained in the British-Irish Agreement to carry out a wide-ranging review of the Offences against the State Acts generally. The Government intends to honour that commitment and I will establish such a review mechanism shortly by way of the establishment of a special committee under independent chairmanship and with the participation of both Governments and outside experts. To underline that commitment, I propose to bring forward the date by which the Bill will fall to be reviewed to 30 June 2000. I hope that, by the time the date provided for in the Bill has been reached, violence for political ends will have ended completely and that it will be possible to reform the Offences against the State Acts and dispense with those elements no longer required, both generally and by reference to the provisions of this Bill. Much will depend on the decisions which those groups which have not yet renounced violence take. Only they can create the conditions whereby it will be possible to dispense with many of the powers which the Offences against the State Acts provide.

(Mayo): I wish to share time with Deputy Flanagan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

(Mayo): The Omagh bombing was not an accident of poor planning or the result of speedy, panic abandonment of a bomb by amateurish paramilitaries whose intended destination was the local courthouse and not the busy, crowded shopping mall. The Omagh bombing was a deliberate atrocity. The more people killed and maimed the greater would be its intended public relations success and coup. Its purpose was to send the loudest possible signal to the world that the IRA is alive and well and that the struggle goes on, regardless of the democratic will of the people. Its purpose was to derail the British-Irish Agreement and to ensure that this most spectacular of holocausts would plunge Nationalist and loyalist paramilitaries into an even more full blooded conflict than heretofore.

The sickening expression of regret from the organisation and its political wing, the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, and its cessation of military activity are part of a strategy to tide it over the wave of mass public revulsion and buy time in the hope that the memory of Omagh will recede in the mistaken belief that the extra legislative powers being enacted by this House and the Seanad this week might be deemed unnecessary.

We have an enormous capacity for ambivalence and an amazing facility to respond emotionally and with overwhelming generosity to certain tragic events and situations. We have the understandable human frailty of forgetting rather quickly. The atrocities at Omagh, Enniskillen and Banbridge are part of the confused and muddled thinking about where people stand when it comes to the national question. For the past 30 years we have tolerated people blowing hot and cold about republicanism and Nationalism. Much of the rhetoric trotted out at Bodenstown was deliberately laced with double think, innuendo anda la carte republicanism. Constitutional parties and politicians in the midst of some of the worst troubles in the North continued to indulge in the four green fields rhetoric and rabble rousing for their selected audiences and on selected occasions while managing to do a quick about-turn the next day in the wake of some further atrocity. These were the people who disparaged as being less than Irish those who had the vision to speak out about the need for compromise or an agreed accommodation with Unionists.

How often have we had public house republicans raise a lusty cheer for a news bulletin announcing the perverted ingenuity of the detonation of a landmine, the shooting of an RUC man in the back of the head or the killing of an old man like Lord Mountbatten? Today there are the grieving fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and heartbroken extended family members of the 28 innocent victims of the Omagh bombing. There are people scarred for life physically and emotionally. How many among the 3,000 plus killed since 1970 were innocent victims of this most savage phase of violent Irish history?

Today we should also remember the young privates and corporals from the British army who were mown down simply because of their regiments' insignia on their uniforms, the young RUC constables blown to pieces because of the badge on their caps, the members of the Garda Síochána shot down in cold blood doing their duty and thwarting so-called patriots from robbing a bank in this jurisdiction and the workmen who were time and again coldly fingered as legitimate targets by self-appointed executioners because they replaced slates on the roof of an RUC barracks. Tonight, thousands of widows and orphans of these victims are left grieving and asking why.

The reality is that Irish unity has not alone not been advanced one iota by such murder — let us call it what it is, each and every killing in the Northern troubles was a murder — but it has left behind a legacy of misery, death and destruction, totally unnecessary and counterproductive. It has poisoned people's minds and segregated and divided communities, making it difficult if not impossible to bridge the gap of mutual sectarian bitterness and hatred in the foreseeable future. The reality is that the civil rights movement, the dismantling of the old Stormont, the genuine proactive interest and input by the Government in the South, resolute input and management of Unionist attitude to domination by the British Government and the sheer weight of world opinion would collectively have delivered a solution before now at least as positive as the tentative Agreement now being taken through its teething stages.

A senior Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform source is quoted as saying: "The intelligence and evidence against these people is already there . but there is no way convictions would have been secured under existing legislation". The same source is also quoted as saying: "There is enough actual evidence against those responsible for this heinous crime to make strong cases against them under new legislation". I hope this is the case because people want those responsible put away and will be watching with interest and impatience to see how quickly and effectively they will be rounded up, charged and convicted under the new powers in this legislation.

The reality is that this time last year the Real IRA was a small group, ill-equipped and isolated. If their identity was so well known why was there no round the clock surveillance on these people to monitor their location, movements and activities? They should have been subjected to exactly the same scrutiny, surveillance, vigilance and frustrations as was meted out to the drug barons.

If inadequate legislation was the difficulty, why was this legislation not introduced as a matter of urgency as soon as possible after the British-Irish Agreement in order to head off the seepage of members, guns and explosives to the new movement? The major problem now is that in a matter of weeks this erstwhile embryonic group seems to have mushroomed almost to the same scale as the Provisional IRA. I acknowledge that there were a number of very significant interceptions of explosives but on the other hand there seems to have been a naive expectation on the part of the Government that such high profile interceptions were sufficient to send a strong signal to the splinter subversives. The result is that these arsenals are now outside the control of the Provisional IRA. As a result, Sinn Féin can no longer be deemed to speak with authority about the huge arsenals which are now outside the control of the Provisonals.

We are, as a result, facing a major security emergency wherein the future of this island is at stake. What is particularly regrettable in the wake of Omagh and in the wake of all the political progress that has been made is the repeated failure by Sinn Féin, in spite of Gerry Adams's statement last night, to insist on decommissioning whatever arms and explosives are still in the possession of the Provisional IRA.

Why should anybody require guns or explosives or access to guns or explosives if they sincerely believe the political process which is now under way has a meaning and a future? Why should Sinn Féin still embrace and defend the concept of a private army while at the same time it has ostensibly embraced the democratic process with Members in this House, in Westminster and the new Stormont Assembly? Sinn Féin must cease indulging itself in word playing and verbal conundrums and must accept its obligation to use its influence and insist the IRA makes a clear statement once and for all that the war is over.

Why should any political organisation claiming democratic legitimacy continue its murky association with gunmen? Why is there not decommissioning now? The attempt to equate the legitimately held arms of the security forces with those of subversives and paramilitaries is but another red herring drawn into the midst of one of the most serious political and security crises this State has seen.

Sinn Féin and the IRA have very serious obligations with regard to these matters. The people who planted the bomb in Omagh, as was said in the House today, were trained by the Provisional IRA and there is absolutely no guarantee, given the psychopathic mentality of those involved in Omagh, that the outrage at Omagh cannot or will not be repeated.

I note again with regret the recent comments by Martin McGuinness that he will not turn informer. The word "informer" should be removed from our political dictionary. To finger, expose and have subjected to the due process of the law people involved in atrocities such as Omagh is not being an informer. In any stable civil society not alone is one not an informer by exposing the perpetrators of such murder and mayhem, one is actually carrying out one's civic duty.

Fine Gael by and large supports this legislation and will support any legislation to deal competently and conclusively with those who set out to subvert the State. It believes, however, that the maximum period of detention provided for in this Bill is inadequate. We fail to see why armed paramilitary murderers should not be subjected to the possibility of the same period of maximum detention as drug barons. In both cases we are talking about the deliberate killing of people. For that reason Fine Gael has tabled an amendment to extend the possible period of detention to seven days. There should be absolutely no shirking from the option of keeping a suspected killer in detention for the additional period if there is a real possibility that additional information will be forthcoming in order to enable charges to be brought.

We have heard many strong words from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform as to the measures which would be introduced to deal with the perpetrators of Omagh and to ensure that there will be no repeat. The real measure of the success of this so-called draconian legislation intended to crush such assassins will be the number and speed of convictions obtained.

Legislation on the issue of withholding information is not new. Section 15 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, requires a person to give information in his possession as to how a person came into possession of firearms or ammunition. Section 16 of the same Act creates an offence of withholding information about stolen property. Section 18 of the Act allows for inferences to be drawn from a person's refusal to account for the presence on his person of any mark or substance. Section 19 similarly allows for inferences to be drawn from a person's presence at a particular place where a crime is committed and where such person fails or refuses to account for such presence. The point I am making is that legislation is only effective if it is effectively applied and the number of times these particular sections of the 1984 Act have been applied is very limited indeed. Section 52 of the Offences against the State Act, 1939, which provides that a person detained in custody is obliged to give account of his movements, has largely fallen into disuse.

I look forward to a detailed scrutiny of this Bill by the House on Committee Stage. We want assurances from the Minister that each provision in the Bill is practical and can be practically applied. There is no use in talking tough if the measures being introduced today are aspirational but impractical. We want to leave this Chamber this evening absolutely assured the measure which we are passing is an effective watertight instrument to ensure that not only will there never be another Omagh, Enniskillen, Moira, Portadown or Banbridge but that another drop of blood will never be spilled in the vain quest of a cause which flies in the face of the overwhelming democratic will of the people of the island of Ireland.

I support the Bill as a measure that I hope will bring to justice the terrorists who have acted in defiance of the peace agreement and who continue to threaten to engage in violent activities. These people represent a huge threat to democracy. They do not have any mandate and they have no regard for the rule of law and order.

The response of all democrats must be to turn the screw firmly on this relatively small number of people and deny them the oxygen which allows them continue in their evil ways. The oxygen supply must be severed and this cannot be done by legislation alone.

After the Omagh bombing there is an onus upon the entire community to respond. Politicians alone will not resolve the problem of terrorism in our midst. There is a huge onus on all parties to the talks and on the Irish Government which has conceded that the main Real IRA and Continuity IRA membership and threat is from this side of the Border in our jurisdiction.

The legislative response before us is welcome but I am surprised that in the time that has elapsed since the Omagh atrocity the Minister has been silent on the matter of suppression orders under section 19 of the Offences Against the State Act. He has been silent also on any reintroduction of section 31 of the Broadcasting Act to apply to spokespersons for the dissident republican groups.

In referring to the role of politicians not being sufficient to resolve the problem, I will elaborate on a point made by Deputy Higgins about the passing of information to the security forces. The practice of informing has been difficult given our colonial past where the legacy of the empire has resulted in a certain ambivalence. More than 70 years after independence we are now a mature and democratic State and this ambivalence should not have any place in our society as we approach the new millennium. Our citizens have a moral duty and a civic obligation to co-operate fully with the forces of law and order in rooting out those whose only function is to destroy the hopes of 90 per cent of the people who supported the agreement for peace and democracy. No stone must be left unturned in isolating these people and bringing them to justice.

The security response must allow for a top level of co-operation between the security forces North and South to include the British Army and our own Army personnel. I am disappointed there has not been a greater effort on the part of the Government to ensure a joint standing committee is set up for the exchange of information and intelligence as well as joint patrolling of Border areas which may, from time to time, be deemed appropriate as circumstances dictate.

I would like the Minister to confirm that the security forces in Northern Ireland will provide to the Garda authorities full forensic reports on the Omagh bombing. The man who made the bomb has been described in the media as a 32 year old unemployed electrician living in a wellknown suburb of this city. People are looking to us for answers. They are looking to the Minister to explain how these people can be named in the media and yet freely engage in the type of activities that may result in further atrocities at some stage in the future.

It is clear that the purpose of the dreadful Omagh bomb, which brought so much pain and suffering to so many, was to smash the British-Irish Agreement, thereby scuttling the peace process. The purpose was to provoke a Unionist backlash such as would ensure that the Ulster Unionist Party could not continue to move towards an acceptable compromise to end the 30 years of mayhem and destruction in which democratic politics had little place.

Great credit is due to Mr. Trimble in that, since the atrocity, he has still been able to move the process forward. His positive working relationship with the Deputy First Minister, Mr. Mallon, is a sign of great hope. It is gratifying that the centre ground of Northern politics, dominated by the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP, has strengthened since the election and has not been weakened by the Omagh tragedy. However, the assembly will meet the week after next and the Unionists cannot be expected to sit in the same cabinet with Sinn Féin without appropriate gestures from Mr. Adams and his party and encouragement from the British, Irish and US Governments. Mr. Trimble needs help and reassurance and that should be forthcoming as much from the Irish Government as from any other source.

This legislation must show dissident republican groups that they will not be tolerated in the Republic of Ireland. The Omagh tragedy has presented Sinn Féin and Mr. Adams with an opportunity to break with the past like never before. He can show that both he and his party have crossed the line separating militant republican Nationalism and have engaged in a safe passage across the bridge to constitutional and democratic Nationalism. He can show he is willing to progress from the stale old bitter conflicts of the past to a new future.

He can do that in five ways: by elaborating further on yesterday's statement and declaring categorically that the war is over; by ensuring that a supply of information to the security authorities will be forthcoming from his supporters now engaging positively in democratic politics; by ending the racketeering and punishment beatings — the latter flies in the face of the Mitchell principles and will present a stumbling block to future progress; by expelling the dissidents from the so-called republican family — it is a pity he did not avail of the opportunity yesterday to expel those who continue to operate in a climate of ambivalence towards violence; and by moving on decommissioning.

Sinn Féin must move if the Northern assembly is to work. While Mr. Adams's words are welcome, they must be followed by appropriate and positive deeds. No party to the Agreement can reserve the right to license a return to violence at the time of its choosing. There is no room in any democratic forum for the strategy of the armalite and the ballot box. The referendum results, North and South, removed any moral justification or mandate for the purveyors of the armalite, and any justification they may have had in the past to engage in violent activities has now been removed. The armalite has been deprived of any semblance of a moral or political mandate.

President Clinton will arrive in this country tomorrow and his help and involvement in the past have been most welcome and most important. He is coming to see how he can further help and I believe he can by two means. First, he can reassure the Irish Government and people that he is taking a strong line on the misguided expatriates in the Irish community in the US who support violence by means of the cheque book or the armchair and, second, he can continue to influence Mr. Adams and Sinn Féin to move across the bridge to constitutional and democratic nationalism.

Fine Gael supports the legislation on Second Stage. We look forward to Committee Stage but it is regrettable that there was not a day's interval between Second and Committee Stages.

This legislation is a direct response to the Omagh tragedy and it begs the question: what has the Government been doing since the signing of the Agreement in tracking down those still engaged in violence? The Minister and the Government took their eyes off the ball in the early summer. The so-called Real IRA made 16 attempts to engage in acts of violence, the last of which was the devastating blow to Omagh. Some of these attempts were foiled by the security forces but it was clear to the Government from security and intelligence briefings that this group represented the threat which resulted in the atrocity perpetrated in Omagh.

Even now those who planned and executed the bombing are members of an organisation which is not illegal and has not been proscribed. The

Minister stated that his advice was that there was no need for a proscriptive order and I hope he will elaborate on this on Committee Stage. Groups which are openly associated with terrorism can post bills outside this democratic forum or in any part of this jurisdiction. They can engage in recruitment, call meetings and take part in soft television chat shows. I hope the Minister will address these matters as they are causing concern since the signing of the British-Irish Agreement and, particularly, since the Omagh tragedy.

I am seeking explanations from the Minister on some sections of the Bill. In particular, section 4(1)(b)(i) concerning "movements, actions, activities or associations on the part of an accused person." Is this workable? Much of this legislation may be difficult to apply successfully in court. The phrase "associations on the part of the accused" conjures up much of the discredited and horrific aspects of the prevention of terrorism legislation in the UK. The omission by an accused to deny a published report in the media confers a large degree of power and influence on the media. If it prints a claim that a person is a member of an organisation and that person does not read the newspaper or regards the article with contempt and chooses to ignore it, that report can be a tool of conviction. This has been included in previous legislation but I am not sure to what extent it has been successfully applied.

The Bill has correctly been described as draconian. I hope that innocent parties and those with nothing of which to be afraid will not have their rights interfered with by this legislation. There are a number of sections which require clarification. Section 7 concerns the possession of articles for purposes connected with certain offences. Is this necessary? Is it a new section? It refers to situations in which a person may have articles in his or her possession or under his or her control in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that the article is for the purposes of a crime under the Explosive Substances Act. Is this not already a criminal activity? How much of this is window dressing and how much of it can be applied to ensure terrorists cannot have a safe haven in this jurisdiction?

For the most part, regrettably, the tough measures in the Bill are necessary to protect the Agreement, as democrats attempt to rebuild the deeply divided society and to ensure politics is not led or dictated to by a small minority of perverts who threaten to turn the clock back. You, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, will be familiar with the work we have done in recent months towards encouraging a process on the demilitarisation front. Sadly, much of that work has been for nought. That hope is dashed. There were four key areas where we had hoped to see a reduction in the number of security forces North and South. For example, the removal of the security installations, the removal of emergency powers and a package of measures appropriate to a normal and peaceful society. The Omagh bombing represents a huge setback to that process. Democrats must plough on regardless to heal the wounds and to foster a climate of peace. Let us hope this legislation aids and assists that process.

Dr. Upton

On behalf of the Labour Party I welcome the Bill as a mechanism to strengthen the capabilities of democratic Ireland to combat and end the scourge of terrorism in our midst. Overall the Bill is a balanced response following the outrage at Omagh. It provides some means to clamp down on a fringe terrorist group determined to murder and maim to destroy the peace process. It provides a means to uphold the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens. The Labour Party's position on the Bill is in accord with our long established policy on Northern Ireland. On Northern Ireland we have not sought to criticise the Government for the sake of Opposition but have sought to be constructive at all times. As part of this general policy we supported the position taken by the Government in the referendum Bill which followed the Agreement. We continued this policy by supporting the Government when the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Bill was being debated because it was required by the Agreement. This is the context in which we address the Bill before the House.

We support the Government's view that the Real IRA must be smashed and that no solutions can be achieved by violence. We see no purpose in pretending any side of the House would be more effective in dealing with the Real IRA. We believe there would be no fundamental difference in the response if the Opposition parties were in power. We accept the Government has made great efforts to move the peace process forward. The Labour Party along with other Opposition parties made our contribution to moving it forward also.

Since the legislation was announced we have desisted from criticising points of detail and engaging in nit-picking. Instead, we corresponded with the Government outlining what we considered were appropriate improvements to the legislation. Early last week the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, wrote to the Taoiseach suggesting a time limit be put on the operation of the Bill. We are happy the Government has responded positively to this suggestion, even if the time limit in the Bill is longer than the 12 to 18 months proposed by Deputy Quinn.

At the meeting with Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform officials last Friday we put forward a number of modifications to the Bill. We are happy that three specific suggestions have been accepted. In section 2 the Government has accepted it should be made clear, in line with normal legal practice, that persons should not be questioned after being charged. In section 9 we suggested a person should not be obliged to incriminate themselves and appropriate changes have been made in the Bill as published. In section 10 we suggested that where detention is being extended by a court for an extra 24 hours the Garda should have to physically produce the arrested person before the court. This is in line with the Drug Trafficking Act and provides an important safeguard. The Minister has also made a positive response to this suggestion. Yesterday I wrote to him outlining our remaining proposals for improving the legislation and am awaiting a definitive response. The proposals which did not receive a positive response will form the basis of our amendments at a later stage.

Legitimate fears have been expressed regarding a possible erosion of civil liberties by the innovative parts of the Bill. The Labour Party cannot ignore these fears, but neither can we renege on our responsibilities to ensure that all possible measures are taken to apprehend those responsible for the carnage in Omagh and to further ensure they are not afforded the opportunity to repeat their wanton acts of terror. The Bill is a specific response to an indiscriminate and fascist act of slaughter. It should be a temporary strike against a rump group of violent and dangerous fanatics. I emphasise that it is not intended to be a permanent feature of Irish law.

The Bill is also an important signal. The British-Irish Agreement marked the successful conclusion of political dialogue on the competing interests of identity on the island. It has also opened the way for a fully legitimate and effective law and order response to the use of terror. We must clearly articulate to those members of paramilitary groups remaining active that the only response to their terrorism will be more stringent law and order provisions. The political debate has concluded: there can be no change in Northern Ireland, on the island as a whole or between east and west unless it is signalled in the British-Irish Agreement. The Agreement envisages an Ireland with enhanced human rights provisions and a diminished emphasis on stringent security measures. However, security can never be relaxed in the context of those who continue to undermine the Agreement by means of terror and indiscriminate violence.

On 22 May the people, North and South, gave their overwhelming support for a new political future without violence. The support in the South and within the Nationalist community in the North has been more remarkable. The Real IRA neither has nor seeks a mandate to continue. We must face the prospect of a repeat of the events in Omagh. I see no change in the logic being used by the Real IRA. It bases its actions on a certain vision of the Irish nation and has consistently worked counter to the wishes and interests of the people of the nation. Regrettably, if it retains its technical capacity it may re-engage its campaign of indiscriminate violence. The purpose of the Bill must be to prevent such a resurgence. If the Omagh outrage is repeated on any scale in any town, east or west of the River Bann, further security measures will have to be considered.

The Bill must be credible and effective. It must herald the legitimacy and capacity of democratic Ireland to govern itself within the parameters of the Constitution, the British-Irish Agreement and our international human rights commitments. The seat of the Irish nation resides exclusively in the ballot box. There is no room for the gun or for explosives in Irish politics. Neither is there room for the threat of physical force as a way of advancing a political position.

Throughout its history, the Labour Party has stood firm in the face of terror. This contrasts sharply with the views held by sections of other parties in the House at various stages in their history. At all points, we have unambiguously opposed the use of terror as a means of securing the aims of the Irish nation. On behalf of the Labour Party, I express my sense of pride at our consistency in opposing terrorist means. Former leaders of the Labour Party, from Brendan Corish and Frank Cluskey to Dick Spring, have never accepted the legitimacy of terror to further the so-called interests of the Irish nation.

The Labour Party has participated constructively in all stages of the peace process and in all other attempts to resolve the problem in the North. Unlike other parties we have not sought to score cheap political points. Neither did we, when in opposition, seek to undermine the Government in its attempts to end the violence. I recognise the role played by Labour Ministers in the previous Government in progressing the peace process.

The argument has been made that the legislation is in some way dishonest, that it involves judicial participation in a sham exercise and that internment without trial or "executive detention" would be a more honest approach. I do not share that attitude. I do not believe that judges will allow their role to be reduced to rubber stamping the Executive's will. It is reasonable to expect that prosecution cases consisting entirely of opinion and inference will be subject to rigorous scrutiny by the courts.

There is a risk that if internment was available as an option it would be chosen as a matter of routine. In many cases it could be used as an alternative to a criminal trial. Where there are reasonable grounds for doubt as to innocence, but insufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt, internment would be attractive in these circumstances if it was available. Those who suggest that internment would be a better alternative to the provisions of this Bill should remember that this Bill provides for a criminal trial which involves independent adjudication and the safeguard of due process. These are entirely absent from the process of internment and reduce, even if they do not eliminate, the risk of a miscarriage of justice.

I will not consider every provision of this Bill in detail but will concentrate on specific aspects which are of particular importance. There is one point of general application to the Garda questioning process which I want to make. I refer to the electronic recording of interviews in Garda custody.

In 1989, while in Opposition, Deputy Dick Spring introduced a Criminal Justice Bill to amend the law governing the rules of evidence and procedure as they apply to statements taken from persons in Garda custody. This initiative followed the quashing of the convictions of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four and their release from prison. These convictions had been obtained on foot of statements made in police custody.

Subsequently, the Judge Frank Martin Committee, established by the Government to review the question of video recording of interviews in Garda custody, recommended the introduction of audio-visual recording of all such interviews. The recommendation followed an examination of such systems in operation in the USA, Canada and Australia. The recommendations of the Martin Committee were accepted by all sides of this House — including my own party — and a decision in principle was taken to introduce audio-visual recording of Garda interviews. I understand that at present four Garda stations routinely record interviews of suspects in custody and that this will be increased by one in the near future. The legislation we are debating today is intended to be operated in a narrow and focused manner.

Given that the legislation is designed to remove from circulation a small number of RIRA activists, it seems prudent and practical to ensure that the interviews with these people while in Garda custody are recorded. Such a move would do much to dispel any apprehension that this State is rowing back on its previously made commitments relating to safeguarding the rights of persons in custody. It would also be in line with the preferences of the Attorney General's office, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda themselves. It would offer a safeguard to gardaí against false accusations which may be levelled against them.

I therefore call on the Minister, in his reply to this stage of the debate, to set out the Government's view as to the practicality of ensuring that audio-visual recording is available in cases of membership of an unlawful organisation processed under this Bill. At the very least the Garda headquarters in Carrickmacross where the Omagh investigation is based — and to which arrested people have already been brought from Counties Kildare and Meath — should be designated under the regulations as a station in which interviews are recorded.

I welcome section 18 which provides that the bulk of the measures will cease to be in force at the end of the year 2000. Most of the rest of the Offences against the State Acts is intended to be permanent legislation, as integral a part of the criminal law of this State as our homicide or rape laws. This Bill, on the other hand, contains what are best classed as emergency provisions and it is right that their effect and effectiveness should be subject to review. This is of particular importance in the context of the British-Irish Agreement. It would be a worthless exercise if, in our efforts to defend that Agreement as a democratic expression of the wishes of the overwhelming majority, we undermined the integrity of the Agreement.

For example, paragraph 5 of the security section of the Agreement commits the Government to a wide-ranging review of the Offences against the State Acts with a view both to reform and to dispensing with the provisions no longer required in them. The provisions on human rights are also relevant. The Agreement states that the Irish Government is committed to establishing a human rights commission with a mandate to keep under review the adequacy and effectiveness of laws and practices and to make recommendations to Government as necessary.

The Government is also committed to ensuring at least an equivalent level of protection of human rights in this jurisdiction as will pertain in Northern Ireland where the European Convention is to be incorporated in domestic law. My party would be particularly concerned at the implications if the new measures on the law of evidence, set out in section 2, were to be successfully challenged before the European Court. It has been suggested that it may be necessary to enter a derogation to the European Convention to prevent this happening. It would be a disastrous setback to the full implementation of the Agreement if, to defend it, both Governments had to seek derogation from specific commitments made in the Agreement.

As has been stated many times in recent months, the Agreement is a comprehensive package which places obligations on all sides. We must avoid at all costs, and resist from others, the idea that its provisions can be cherry picked as circumstances suit. For these reasons, we welcome the provision in section 18 that the major changes made by the Bill will lapse at the end of June 2000. This will allow the full independent review contemplated by the British-Irish Agreement to take place and a full debate on whether these measures can, or should, be permanent. We would argue, however, that this legislation should lapse automatically and unconditionally at the end of 2000, rather than retaining a possibility of its being further extended by resolution of both Houses. We should remember that a review of the entirety of the Offences against the State Acts, under the British-Irish Agreement, will have been completed by that date.

If that review is in any way serious, there will be a need for codifying and consolidating legislation which discards much of what is now irrelevant in the Acts, such as provisions relating to unlawful drilling and so on. Much of this Bill could be incorporated in that consolidating Bill, where it would be subject to line by line scrutiny in this House and in the Seanad. This is far preferable to a one or two hour debate on a motion to extend the lifetime of today's package without any provision for amendment of the various sections. Section 4 gives an extended meaning to the word "conduct" as used in the 1972 Act. That Act allows for a person's conduct to be used in evidence against him or her on a charge of membership of an unlawful organisation. "Conduct" is now to include "movements, actions, activities or associations" on the part of the accused person. I have no difficulty with a person's conduct being taken to include his or her movements, actions and activities; it is difficult to know what else it could mean. However, I object to a person's associations — those whom he or she meets — being used in evidence against an accused. None of us is responsible for the actions of our acquaintances. Mere association with an individual should not be taken as an endorsement of those actions, still less as a form of complicity and responsibility for them. The introduction of such a rule would be especially destructive in the context of personal and family relationships, with the real risk being run that a whole household would stand convicted because of the actions of one of its members. The House should reject the temptation to enshrine "guilt by association" as a principle of Irish criminal law.

A gap in existing legislation exists to the extent that there is no specific offence of contributing to, fund-raising for, or holding money on behalf of an unlawful organisation. Although such money is held forfeit to the State under the Amendment Act of 1985, criminal proceedings cannot be brought against those involved. To cover this point I propose that an additional subsection be added to section 6 which deals with the directing of an unlawful organisation. I hope the Minister will respond sympathetically to it.

Section 9 creates the new offence of withholding information likely to be of assistance to the Garda Síochána. While I do not object to the general principle behind this proposal, I have serious doubts about the way in which it is drafted, which seems to give the offence an extent of operation which is far wider than either intended or needed. In particular it seems to pre-empt and make entirely redundant the study currently being undertaken by the Minister of State, Deputy Fahey, on the question of whether there should be mandatory reporting of child abuse. The new offence applies to information likely to be of material assistance in preventing the commission of, or securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any person for, a "serious offence". As the Minister indicated in his speech a serious offence is defined as including an offence punishable by more than five years' imprisonment which involves loss of life, serious personal injury, false imprisonment, etc. There can be no doubt but that the sexual abuse of a child would fall within a definition of serious personal injury.

I recognise that the offence applies only where a person fails "without reasonable excuse" to disclose material information to the Garda. It might be argued that health care professionals and health board officials would have such a reasonable excuse if they, their professional bodies or their employees did not agree with the principle of mandatory reporting. However, I believe that, rather than having to rely on the unknown outcome of some future court proceedings, such professionals are entitled to specific protection from the provisions of this section.

I would ask the Minister to consider for committee stage a simple amendment which would exempt from section 9 medical practitioners and members of prescribed classes of health workers, social workers and teachers and other appropriate professionals as regards information which they properly acquire in the course of their professional duties and which do not relate to the thrust of this Bill.

Section 3 provides for similar provisions that exist in the Alibis Act, 1984. A defendant in this case must notify the court of witnesses that he or she is calling in his or her defence. The Labour Party supports the thrust of this section and the need for such notification. However, we have included an amendment so that a court cannot make inference on the failure of a person to call a witness when he or she previously gave notice of his or her intention to do so.

This Bill is a concerted, focused attempt to eliminate violence from Irish politics. It is an attempt to face down those who do not adhere to democracy and who are not prepared to use democratic means to advance their cause. When the British-Irish Agreement was signed, there were those who anticipated the danger of some elements continuing to use physical force to pursue their objectives despite the clearly expressed wishes of the people. Those who are committed to peace should not underestimate the challenge we still face. For nearly 200 years Irish politics has had an element of people who were prepared to resort to violence as a way of advancing their cause. It would be naive and simplistic to think that all these people will be satisfied with anything less than the full attainment of their aspirations.

In the aftermath of the Omagh bombing there was overwhelming revulsion. Two weeks later, while the revulsion still remains, it is now modulated by concerns with civil liberties. This pattern of events is unfortunately part of a recurring phenomenon experienced over the past 30 years. Emotional responses have not stopped the bombers and murderers. They have not responded in the past to emotional appeals to stop. Instead they have resorted to lying low for a period until the public outrage waned and then continuing their war. This Bill is unique in its serious intent to isolate and crush those who cause carnage and destruction in the name of the Irish people and, therefore, the Labour Party supports it.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill, which I welcome and support. I congratulate the Minister for Justice on his good fortune in sitting in a House which is almost entirely supportive of this Bill. I recall late November and early December 1972 when I introduced a modest measure in comparison with this one — I read it recently and it is modest — and was assailed from all sides night and day. The criticism from all parties was led by the former Deputy Cooney, who put down what he described as a "reasoned" amendment to prevent the passing of the Bill, and was extraordinarily severe. This shows how times have changed. It is the Minister's good fortune that he holds office at the present time, even though at times he may think his life is not an easy one.

I support the proposed four or five new offences created by this Bill. They are important in counteracting violent subversive activities and are valid for now. If they are valid for now, why are they not valid for all time? Why will they no longer be offences after the end of June or December in 2000, as is now suggested?

There seems to be a feeling abroad that legislation by any state to protect itself against violent subversion should be temporary and should be removed when an obviously violent overt threat disappears. This is not the way a modern state should do its business. Every state must have a corpus of permanent legislation which deals with acts of violent subversion against it. The Minister should bear this in mind. Given that the new offences he proposes to create are valid in present circumstances, they are likely to remain so and should be part of the permanent corpus of law.

Section 6 creates the offence of directing an unlawful organisation. Why should it become lawful to direct an unlawful organisation after 30 June or 30 December 2000? It should not — it should be unlawful for all time. Section 7 creates the offence of possession of articles for purposes connected with certain offences. These articles are mainly fertiliser, fuel oil, detonators etc. which are used in the making of bombs, including the appalling Omagh bomb. Why should it be lawful to have possession of these articles after 30 June 2000? Why should the unlawful collection of information for the purpose of besetting, attacking or killing people ever be lawful? Why should withholding information ever be lawful? Why should it be lawful for a farmer who has members of an illegal organisation making bombs on his farm to withhold information from the Garda? Section 12 applies to training persons in the making or use of firearms or explosives. Why should it be lawful at any time to train such people or to receive such training? It should not be lawful and these sections should be part of our permanent law.

There is no need to apologise for having Offences Against the State Acts. They have existed since 1939 and succeeded other Acts which dated from the early 1920s. They exist for a valid reason; the State could not protect itself and its institutions if they did not exist. They should always exist and we should not assume an apologetic attitude for them.

Some sections of the 1939 Act tended not to be used and I often wondered why. One of the most important sections in the Bill before the House is the provision for forfeiture of lands or property used for illegal subversive purposes. To some extent that power existed under section 25 of the 1939 Act which provided for the making of a closure order. Under another section of that Act a forfeiture order could be made. The forfeiture order, which could be made by the Minister for Justice, might have been unconstitutional and I never sought to use it. However, I did use a closure order, when I was Minister for Justice in 1972, against a building being used by Provisional Sinn Féin as a front for the Provisional IRA. The order was challenged in the High Court and that court upheld the right of the chief superintendent concerned. According to the bookPolitical Violence and the Law in Ireland by Hogan and Walker, that was the only occasion the provision was used and that is a pity.

There was an important article on this topic by Dick Walsh inThe Irish Times on Saturday, 29 August. Mr. Walsh is described in some quarters as one of The Irish Times liberals, people who are viewed with derision in some parts of the country. His comments, therefore are particularly valuable. He wrote: “Omagh was the price paid for the casual attitudes of politicians, policemen and journalists who made light of bomb after bomb — in Moira, Banbridge, Dundalk, Portadown, Armagh, Howth and Dún Laoghaire — 10 in all since the beginning of the year.” He went on to talk about the argument that internment or other harsh measures never worked in this country and pointed out how untrue and inaccurate that argument is. He spoke about how different life might have been without these measures. His comments are true, even though they are not usually made in what is currently written on these matters.

This State, like any other, must protect itself. Some Members might seek to describe this legislation as a measure to counteract what is described as the Real IRA, but I view it as a measure to protect the State. Even if the "Real IRA" disappeared in the morning, as did many of its predecessors only to resurrect themselves under other names, the State must continue to protect itself and it should not be apologetic about it.

There is danger in the current atmosphere of appeasing people who have been convicted of serious violent crimes, including murder. Nobody has been released, to date, under the Belfast Agreement. That fact is often overlooked. The people who have been released — and some would have had many more years to serve — have been released unilaterally and one might almost say arbitrarily by successive Governments as a gesture of goodwill towards provisional Sinn Féin. While that is intended to send a type of message in one direction it sends another type of message in another. I am concerned at the number of those so released who have since been rearrested and charged with very serious crimes. I am concerned about section 14, as are some others who have been in touch with me about it. The time allocated for Committee Stage is so short that we shall probably not discuss section 14. If the Minister does not object I draw his attention to a difficulty which is likely to arise under it. The section declares that "the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order in relation to each offence under sections 6 to 9 and 12". I do not know that this is necessarily in accordance with Article 38.3.1p of the Constitution because that reads "Special courts may be established by law for the trial of offences in cases where it may be determined in accordance withsuch law that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order.”. That is implemented in sections 35, 36 and 37 of the Offences against the State Act, 1939, and it is done, in accordance with this article, by way of Government proclamation made under section 35 of the 1939 Act. Section 14 purports to overrule that and I do not think it can. Article 38 provides that special courts may be established where it may be determined that ordinary courts are inadequate “in accordance with such law”, not by such law. There are provisions in sections 35 and 36 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, for the making by the Government of a proclamation that circumstances have changed. There is also provision in section 36 for the passing of a resolution by the Dáil bringing the proclamation to an end but none of that is now available.

For the first time in all our Offences Against the State legislation a declaration of this kind is to be made by statute rather than by proclamation of the Government. This may seem a lawyer's point but I think it is valid. I cannot think of any reason it was done this way other than that of making things more convenient on paper. Section 14 appears to conflict with Article 38 and it certainly conflicts with the earlier legislation. The Minister should consider this point in the few hours that are left. This of course is one of the difficulties of trying to deal with a Bill as extensive and important as this in one day. This is a serious point and it should be examined very carefully because a problem could arise in relation to it.

However, it is reassuring to see the various provisions that are made, both substantive and evidential, all of which are necessary and useful. It interests me to see that this House will now so readily assist in the implementation of section 3 of the 1972 Act, which so many Members of this House said was virtually the death-knell of Irish democracy and all the usual claptrap that one gets on these occasions.

I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill on Second Stage. I deeply regret the circumstances that led to its speedy introduction. Like Mr. Walsh, I think legislation of this kind was needed anyway. I regret that we did not see the need for it earlier, after all the warnings we got of the murderous intent of these people.

I saw Omagh the day after this tragedy. While I did not get the opportunity to speak this morning, I feel I should not conclude what I have to say on Second Stage without recording my absolute horror at what I saw of the suffering and death that was inflicted on so many people. As well as dealing with the perpetrators of that atrocity I hope this legislation, in conjunction with the remaining legislation enacted since 1939, will remain a permanent feature of our Statute Book and will be used to try to prevent any repetition, even on a much smaller scale, of the awful things we saw happen in Omagh.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Joe Higgins.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Every one of us in this House is conscious of the evil that lies within our communities on the island. Today we are speaking in its shadow. The Omagh bombing is an all pervading reminder of that terrible reality. This is a day for acknowledging the horror, death and suffering which occurred at Omagh and to pledge ourselves to do everything possible to bring this kind of terrorism to an end. We are all in agreement with the Taoiseach that those who shed so much innocent blood must be rooted out and crushed.

We also need to acknowledge the bravery and compassion shown by ordinary people in Omagh, by professionals, social and health care workers and district council workers. In particular, I acknowledge the work of the members of the RUC and the security forces generally. Like the Garda Síochána, members of the RUC in the face of unspeakable evil, are expected to show strength and support at a time when human strength is stretched beyond endurance. They are the ones who literally have to pick up the pieces. At Omagh, they did so in the most agonising conditions possible. All of us in the Republic need to recognise their contribution and to do everything in our power to address any archaic discrimination that exists against them in our local and national organisations.

Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary responses; that is why we are here today. That is why this legislation is being enacted while similar legislation is being passed through the British Parliament. It proposes to give sweeping powers to the Garda Síochána and the Judiciary and sets out to deal with paramilitary terrorism by introducing provisions into law that in other circumstances would be intolerable in a democratic society. It sets out to restrict the right to silence and allows a court to make inferences from the failure of a defendant to speak, to increase the time of detention and to allow guilt by association. As the Minister said, the legislation is draconian.

We in Democratic Left accept the requirement on us all to tackle terrorism head on. The nature of this legislation and the context within which it is being presented is unambiguous but, as it stands, it is not enough. It is not enough to rush through harsh measures in response to a natural public revulsion at the Omagh bombing or to find and punish the guilty, if we do not at the same time, protect the innocent. This is the function of any Government in a democratic society. It is a function of the Government to ensure that this legislation is neither indiscriminate nor indefinite. If we fail to protect basic human and civil rights then we are handing the terrorists a victory. The lessons of history are plain and it would be inexcusable to ignore them.

We have already expressed our concern that this legislation does not provide adequate safeguards to protect the innocent. On Committee Stage I will table amendments, which I hope will be considered seriously. We are seeking not to change the legislation fundamentally but to change the context within which it is implemented. We are seeking to create the democratic controls which are needed but which as yet are absent from the Bill. Without such accountability a hasty knee-jerk reaction both here and in Britain can have serious long-term dangers. In both jurisdictions over the years there have been enough precedents of miscarriages of justice to alert us to the necessity of getting this legislation right. In 1974 a previous British Labour Government introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act as another "draconian" and "temporary" measure. It is still on the statute books. We have our own examples of such so-called temporary measures. The declaration of a state of emergency introduced at the outbreak of the Second World War was only finally lifted in 1995 by the rainbow Government. Another so-called temporary measure, the Offences Against the State Act, was introduced in 1939. Indeed, there are anomalous powers in the Act. For instance, every newspaper which carried the recentAn Phoblacht interview with an IRA representative committed an offence under that Act and the editors are liable at present to a prison term of six months.

In responding to justifiable public criticism, the Government has set a time limit on this new proposed legislation, but two and a half years is an inordinately long time to prove the effectiveness of such legislation in dealing with a small, relatively known, group of individuals. I hope in the limited time available for Committee Stage we can consider shortening that timeframe. I regret the Government has chosen to compress this debate into one day only.

I regret the Government has not seen fit to provide the necessary balance between stringency and safeguards. We cannot beat the terrorists by becoming more like them. We cannot deal with a paramilitary oppression of the innocent by introducing some new kind of parliamentary or police oppression of the innocent. It is the very stringency of the measures proposed which provokes the need for such safeguards. The so-called Real IRA set out to undermine the British-Irish Agreement. We must ensure that they fail totally in that mission.

In the Agreement the Government committed itself to strengthening the protection of human rights in this jurisdiction and gave an undertaking to establish a human rights commission. A standing committee already established in Northern Ireland is proving itself to be a good watchdog for human rights. To date, the commitment has not yet been honoured. Not only is this an opportunity for the Government to live up to that commitment but there is an onus on the Government to live up to that commitment, to prove to the terrorists that nothing will deflect the implementation of the British-Irish Agreement. This matter can be addressed by the amendment which I intend to table on Committee Stage. In the interim, while a human rights commission is being established, the Minister should be required to make a report to the Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights. This kind of framework is necessary because the Government stated that it set 31 December 2000 as the expiry date for the legislation as it will coincide with the final date for the review of emergency legislation set out in the British-Irish Agreement, but a date was not set out in the Agreement for the completion of such a review.

I welcome the section in relation to the forfeiture of property. It is an important one, particularly in the light of the decommissioning process. Will the Minister consider delaying it for a short, limited period to encourage people who are engaged in providing safe locations — there seems to be no shortage of them — to give up the guns and explosives in their possession?

Some of the language in the Bill is worryingly vague. The section on conduct outlines and defines conduct to include movements, actions, activities or associations on the part of accused persons. These are not defined in the Bill and there are questions to be asked. I ask the Minister to deal with this when he comes back into the House. What are we talking about? Are we talking about the brother and sister who meets somebody who is a member of an illegal organisation on a regular basis, who drinks with such a member in a pub or who plays on the same football team? These are questions which need to be addressed by the Minister in relation to this vague language in the Bill which is deserving in its wide remit.

One of the most effective safeguards a person in custody can have against potential mistreatment is the electronic recording of interviews. It also provides the additional benefit of protecting members of the Garda against spurious claims of ill-treatment. It is unacceptable that 14 years from the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act facilities for the recording of interviews are available only in a handful of Garda stations. Whatever about technical difficulties, the taping of interviews is surely a relatively simple and low cost procedure. I will be tabling an amendment on this issue.

The British-Irish Agreement is the context within which terrorism can and will be defeated. It is the touchstone, the bedrock of the democratic will of the different communities on this island. This legislation creates an opportunity for us to apply the principles which eliminate terrorism but also protect the innocent. Inevitably, with this type of legislation the innocent get caught up and arrested from time to time — history teaches us so.

The Agreement is infused with pledges from both Governments to guarantee civil and human rights. That holds as good now as it did on the day it was signed. If this Government is to live up to the Agreement then it too must infuse this legislation with something of the same spirit. Our strength lies not just in severe law but in the allegiance of our people to the forces of law and order. That allegiance can only be based on democratic principles. Let us not see the bombers of Omagh succeed in any conceivable way in undermining the principles governing the British-Irish Agreement.

(Dublin West): I thank Deputy McManus for sharing her time with me.

The introduction of this Bill is an incredible exercise by both the British and Irish Governments. The equivalent of what we are doing here today is being done in the British House of Commons — members there got sight of the Bill virtually hours before the debate. It is quite clear that this is but a cynical ploy by both Governments in response to the natural outrage expressed by people throughout Ireland at the atrocity of the Omagh bombing.

In that cynical response, failing to learn from the mistakes of the past, the Government is introducing proposals that play fast and loose with the civil rights of our people. They are imposing these laws on 3.5 million people in an attempt to deal with what is estimated to be 50 to 100 people in the organisation, North and South, which carried out the Omagh atrocity. It is quite clear how this organisation should be dealt with. They have been dealt with in many ways already, not by this hastily cobbled together legislation but by the mass movement of opposition and revulsion by the ordinary people of Ireland. It is the visible expression of that opposition in protest demonstrations throughout Ireland that has made this organisation scurry into a hole.

The powers being introduced by this legislation are quite draconian on top of the already draconian powers under the existing Offences Against the State Act, 1939, and subsequent amendments. That is, by any stretch of the imagination, draconian legislation, many of the provisions of which are glossed over by the media and political parties which have been clamouring for the introduction of these powers. The Offences Against the State Acts, for example, give the power to suppressprotest movements or political movements of a very wide variety totally unrelated to the activities of paramilitarism. For example, a boycott of the payment of motor tax organised by a residents' association to protest against the state of our roads could be declared unlawful and suppressed under the legislation.

The Bill creates new all-encompassing offences with abandon. It is as if the Government is intent on passing out lucky bags. Under section 8, it is an offence for a totally innocent person to have information which could be useful to a group of paramilitaries. Teaching a person to use a hunting rifle or a shotgun for innocent purposes — I disapprove of such activity — can be deemed an offence under the legislation. There is also an "out" clause whereby it shall be a defence if a person can prove they were engaged in certain activities for innocent reasons. The onus of proof will be turned on its head, which will be a major interruption of and interference with the administration of justice in a fair and equitable way.

The Bill will rig the justice system to allow convictions to be made at the whim of individual gardaí and anyone could be subject to its catch-all and wide-ranging provisions. That is alarming. If gardaí so wish, they can use the legislation as a virtual internment mechanism. On this occasion, however, they will be able to do so under cover of a court hearing. The Bill is an extremely cynical exercise in that regard.

It is incredible that the Government, with the agreement of the Opposition parties in general, is rushing this far-reaching measure through in one day without engaging in public debate. Such action represents an affront to the democratic rights of the people and shows that we are dancing to the tune of the gangsters who carried out the atrocity at Omagh instead of dealing with the problem in an entirely different way. It is little wonder that a member of the Birmingham Six has voiced strong opposition to the Bill because it creates the conditions where people can be wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. The Bill will be counterproductive because, following the passing of the tragedy at Omagh into memory, crude use of its provisions will lead some people to have sympathy for those who might have been responsible for that atrocity.

Have the 30 years of the troubles not shown the Government that repressive legislation will not solve the problem and that in the past such legislation has only exacerbated the situation? I am totally opposed to the Bill and will vote against it at all Stages. This is a bad day for the democratic rights of the people. I am amazed that parliamentarians across the floor favour both the legislation and the way in which it is being summarily dealt with by the Dáil.

Táimse ag cur i gcoinne an Bhille ina iomlán. Is céim ar strae ón bpróiseas síochána í na dlithe atá molta anseo, comh maith leis the dlithe atá ag dul tré Pharlaimint Westminster faoi láthair. Ní hé seo an freagra cuí ar an uafás san Ómaigh. Is é an freagra is fearr ná dul ar aghaidh chun an Comhaontú a chur i bhfeidhm.

I am opposing the Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, 1998, in its entirety. The Bill comes before us in the heat of justified anger at the Omagh atrocity. At the height of public emotion, the Government has brought forward legislation which, by the admission of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, was long in gestation. Clearly in the past it was believed that passage of such drastic measures was not politically feasible. Now the Bill is to be sped through the Oireachtas with minimal debate and fundamental changes in the law affecting the rights of all citizens are to be introduced with little public awareness of their long-term implications. The political blunders and legal injustices of the past are repeated. During the conflict emergency legislation was introduced rapidly in the wake of tragedies — the Offences against the State Act, 1972, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Emergency Provisions Act and other lesser provisions. In every case it was stated that these were temporary measures which would not stay on the Statute Book; in every case their passage was facilitated by the promise that they were designed not for widespread use, but for the pursuit of those suspected of responsibility for particular offences. The result was such cases as the Guildford Four, the Maguire family, Giuseppe Conlon, Judith Ward and the Sallins four in this jurisdiction. These are only the best known cases and long after these people were released or, in the case of Giuseppe Conlon, deceased, the laws remain.

The measures before us run contrary to the spirit and letter of the British-Irish Agreement. One of the main reasons for Nationalist and republican support for the Agreement is the centrality within it of human rights and civil liberties. Those central elements of the Agreement are being undermined in a few hours today and tomorrow as drastic measures are rushed through the Oireachtas and similar measures are rushed through the British Houses of Parliament. In the Agreement the Government committed itself to a widespread review of repressive legislation and to "take steps to further strengthen the protection of human rights in its jurisdiction." The measures before us are backward steps.

The legacy of repressive legislation in Ireland is inextricably linked with the legacy of conflict. It has always helped to fuel the cycle of repression and resistance, which the peace process is designed to bring to an end. There is a direct line of succession from the coercive legislation imposed during centuries of British rule and the repressive legislation enforced on both sides of the Border and in Britain since partition. Instead of ending that legacy these laws continue it.

We should look at the political effect in Britain and the North of the Government's action. In advancing this Bill it has facilitated and encouraged the British Government in the passage of legislation in Westminster which will be even more draconian in its effects. The RUC is a discredited force which enjoys no allegiance among the Nationalist community in the Six Counties. It has been censured by a succession of human rights authorities up to and including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which this year criticised the force's treatment of solicitors and said it was guilty of "intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference" with defence lawyers. Into the hands of this force is to be placed the power to imprison people on the basis of the word of senior officers and this potentially disastrous development has come about because the British Government is modelling its laws on those to be passed in this House.

More than one Member has taken a special interest in the case of Elaine Moore. This Bill and the British legislation opens the way for many more such cases. The British-Irish Agreement has the potential to transform the discredited legal and judicial system in the North. The new laws introduced by the British Government and made possible by the action of the Irish Government are now grievously damaging that potential for positive change.

What does the Bill do? First, it reinforces legislation which is already repugnant to civil liberties. The Offences Against the State Acts, 1939 to 1985, have been widely abused. The powers they gave to the Garda have helped to turn the Garda Special Branch into a political police force which has systematically harassed citizens, including this Deputy, engaged in open, legal and democratic political activity, and citizens with no political involvement of any kind. This needs to be borne in mind when we hear guarantees that these strengthened draconian powers will be used selectively. We should heed the plain speaking of people such as Mr. Johnny Walker of the Birmingham Six, who criticised these new laws. He said of the Judiciary in his case: "They believed the police and believed we were liars, and it took sixteen and a half years to prove them wrong".

With one stroke, section 2 attacks the right to silence and reinforces the provision for the conviction of a person for membership of an unlawful organisation on the basis of the opinion of a senior garda. The exercise of the right to silence can now be used to corroborate the word of the garda and can mean that the court can draw inferences from failure to mention any fact later relied on by the defence. In effect, the right to silence is removed. The basis on which the garda forms the opinion that a person is a member of an unlawful organisation remains in the realm of secret intelligence, closed to the scrutiny of the court.

Section 4 is surely one of the most drastic legislative provisions ever brought before the Dáil. It widens the definition of "conduct giving rise to suspicion of membership" to include "association". Deputy O'Malley, as Minister for Justice, introduced the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act, 1972. At that time he made clear, first, that the intention of section 3 of that Act, which it is proposed to amend by section 4 of this Bill, was principally to ensure the use in evidence of the failure of a person to deny media reports that he or she was the member of an unlawful organisation; and second, that section 3(1)(a) of the Act, relating to conduct which could lead to a reasonable suspicion of membership, was nothing new in law since it defined conduct as statements or activities. However, in this Bill, the insertion of the word "associations" gives the section an entirely new meaning. This is guilt by association. What use will be made of this provision in the days after the passage of the Bill? Are people to be arrested and charged on the basis of their friendship or acquaintance with others? A person may be convicted on the dubious basis of the uncorroborated word of a garda, and the association of others with him or her will cause a ripple effect of new convictions. Another effect may be the unwillingness of people to come forward as alibi witnesses for fear they too may be charged under this provision.

While I have Deputy O'Malley in mind I should place on record that, contrary to the inference in his contribution, to my knowledge not one prisoner released in recent times, in his words, as a "sop" to Sinn Féin, has committed or has been charged with the committal of any serious offence.

The provision for the confiscation of property has been described by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties as "an extraordinary departure from the existing law and seems almost like a form of reprisal". Like other sections of this Bill, it seems highly likely it will be constitutionally challenged and may well be struck down.

One of the most worrying aspects of the Bill is the creation of British-style conspiracy laws. These are vaguely defined, catch-all offences. The most serious is modelled on a British law; it is the offence of directing, at any level, the activities of an unlawful organisation. For this nebulous offence, which seems designed to convict people against whom no substantive evidence exists, the penalty is life imprisonment. Similarly vague is the offence of possessing any article which could give rise to reasonable suspicion that it is to be used for offences under various Acts, mainly to do with explosives. Are fertiliser bags and shovels to be used to secure convictions?

The offence of withholding information is also vague as is the offence of collecting, recording or possessing information. These conspiracy laws open up whole new avenues of possible abuse. The extension of the period of detention for questioning to three days when taken with the provisions regarding the right to silence create a scenario where innocent people could be wrongly convicted. Detained in a Garda station for three days the suspect is allowed access to a solicitor but not during interrogation. The person's silence will be legally admissible and so will his or her failure to mention to the gardaí a fact which he or she may later rely on during his or her trial. With no legal requirement for interviews to be video and audio taped and in the absence of a solicitor, it will be almost impossible to prove that a person answered relevant questions. It is easy to see how innocent people, confused and pressurised in an alien environment and unsure of their rights, could implicate themselves. The danger of this occurring in the present climate is especially acute.

I do not believe the amendments proposed to the legislation before the House will go far enough to nullify its fundamentally repressive nature and at least one of the amendments alluded to during the debate would make it even more draconian. Laws which attack fundamental rights are being rushed through the Oireachtas and, as so often in the past, the damaging consequences may only come fully to light in years to come.

The so-called main Opposition parties in this House have evaded their responsibility in facilitating the passage of this Bill. I oppose it for the reasons I have outlined.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Boylan and Ring.

That is in order.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I listened with interest to Deputies Higgins and Ó Caoláin. It is not easy for them to object to the introduction of this legislation because the vast majority of parliamentarians in this House believe it is the right way to go. Deputy Higgins stated on numerous occasions in this House that he represents the ordinary people and I often wonder about that. His view at this stage is out of step with the ordinary people I represent. They believe this legislation is necessary after the horrendous crime committed in Omagh. I represent that view and I come from a Border county that has strong allegiances towards nationalism and republicanism. The vast majority of constituents I represent were utterly mystified as to the reasons for the carnage in Omagh. They believe the Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, l998, is necessary to try to bring the perpetrators of that horrendous crime to justice. They will support legislators and security forces in their efforts to do that.

Why does the Government deem it necessary to introduce this legislation now after the bombing in Omagh? Did the security forces and the Government with their intelligence not know there was a threat of violence and that even with the British-Irish Agreement there were splinter groups in the republican and loyalist movements which could cause the mayhem experienced in Omagh. Why is the Government introducing this legislation now after the atrocity in Omagh, although it is better late than never? Perhaps we took too much for granted because the threat of violence has been very much in existence for the past 20 to 30 years and legislation such as this has been necessary on numerous occasions. I support this legislation because the Omagh bombing was an attack not alone on the people who were murdered but on democracy. As democratically elected representatives, the only way we can defend our society is to implement legislation that will support and defend democracy. The vast majority of people believe this Bill is necessary, and as a legislator I support their view.

The provisional IRA could now play an important part in bringing about a peaceful solution if they were to negotiate some form of decommissioning. I do not expect them to give up all their arms and explosives, but they have to show they are willing to walk away from violence. Any form of decommissioning would be an indication to all the parties in Northern Ireland and to the elected politicians here that the Provisional IRA are definitely on the road to peace and firmly believe violence is no longer the way to secure their objectives.

If the security forces here feel this legislation is necessary it is imperative that we support that view by introducing it. I know the security forces — the Garda Siochána and the Army — are ordinary human beings and that there have been miscarriages of justice in our own State and in Great Britain. Human error is possible. However, what happened in Omagh was an attack on democracy, and if the only thing we as legislators can do is introduce legislation to catch the people who committed that horrendous crime, we are doing a good day's work in introducing it. If it is necessary that this legislation be ongoing for a number of years to stop violence in our society, then that is the proper way to deal with such violence.

It is a sad day for Ireland that the Dáil had to be recalled to bring in this legislation, and it is not being introduced because people said prayers at Mass on Sundays. I am surprised by Deputy Higgins's opposition but I am not surprised by Deputy Ó Caoláin's — I did not expect him to support the Bill because many of his friends from the past will be dealt with over the next few months.

What happened two weeks ago must never happen again. I come from a strong republican background and some of my people were killed in the struggle to set up this State. My great granduncle helped to set up the Garda Síochána. I respect the Garda Síochána greatly and support them. They have done a wonderful job. They have always defended the people and supported democratically elected Governments. People going about their daily duties, who do not break the law and do not have guns in their houses have nothing to fear from this legislation, but people who go around murdering people have to be dealt with.

For many years we listened to the media, the people on the ground and the Garda Síochána talking about the drug barons. Sunday newspapers published the names and photographs of people and identified them as drug barons. In recent weeks the Sunday newspapers have identified people as armchair generals. The Garda Síochána and people in their home towns know them and it is time to deal with those individuals. I hope the events of a fortnight ago never happen again in the name of Ireland and its people. Such individuals do not represent anybody.

The Government and Deputies are democratically elected by the people who decided in the referendum on the British-Irish Agreement that they wanted peace and no more bombing. Mr. Gerry Adams and Mr. Martin McGuinness are tied into the peace process and I welcome the statement yesterday. However, I hope they will deal with their comrades who call themselves the Real IRA.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Members of the House dictate events. The Real IRA has no say. It is not elected by anybody. The people have spoken and decided that they do not want any more violence. The peace process is in place and they want it implemented.

There are many former Ministers for Justice, including Deputy O'Malley who was a good Minister for Justice and was not afraid to take on the Provisionals. Former Deputies Paddy Cooney and Ray Burke are other former Ministers for Justice who were not afraid to deal with similar problems when they arose. The current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform using the powers contained in the Bill and working in conjunction with the Garda Síochána, will not be afraid to deal with the armchair generals who are cowards and murderers and who do not speak for anybody but themselves. There is no respect for those individuals; only a small minority wants them.

I hope those people will be dealt with after the legislation is passed. The "nod and wink" attitude has operated for too long and these people must be dealt with now if we do not want a continuation of violence for the next 25 years. The Sunday newspapers have identified and named them and the Garda Síochána know them. I hope the Bill will ensure they are lifted off the streets.

The individuals involved became frightened in recent weeks and dumped a number of devices in Dundalk which were ready to be used to bomb more innocent people. The Minister has my full support in dealing with those individuals. I speak on behalf of ordinary people and they want this legislation enacted to deal with the thugs. They do not want them to be in a position to bomb or murder any more people.

I also support the legislation. It is regrettable that it is necessary to recall the Dáil during the summer recess to deal with this matter almost five months after the British-Irish Agreement was reached. We never envisaged that the events in Omagh would take place. We thought we had seen the end of violence once and for all. However, some people will not listen.

I support the Minister's actions and my party will support the Bill. I take exception to Deputy Ó Caolain's remarks about the role of the main Opposition party. I was elected to represent the people and they want this legislation enacted. They want those involved dealt with and I want the Minister to deal with them when he has the powers to do so.

I am not being wise in hindsight, but the Omagh tragedy should not have happened. I have read accounts which state that a monitoring system was in place. The Government directed that certain people whom the security forces suspected were still active were to be monitored. That was a bad decision.

I am concerned because numerous speakers, including the Minister, said this matter involves only a small number of people. We should not be foolish. It does not only involve a small number of people. It involves the IRA which has been operational for the past 25 years. The old IRA was respected because it worked for the country and fought to have British rule lifted. The members of the old IRA believed sincerely in what they did. No matter what letter the bandits who have emerged in the past 25 years choose they are the same animal. We have had the Old IRA, the Official IRA, the Provisional IRA and now the Real IRA. What will come next — the Definitive IRA or the New IRA? They must be dealt with effectively and put behind bars so that we can feel safe and get on with our lives.

I am aware, as someone who lives close to the Border, that the people of Northern Ireland want to do business with us. On Saturday in a ceremony outside Belturbet, County Cavan, to mark the restoration of a bridge blown up over 25 years ago dividing the peoples of counties Fermanagh and Cavan, Senator George Mitchell will lay the first stone. This is a positive step but unless the IRA in all its forms is dealt with effectively by the security forces the success of this endeavour will not be ensured. I do not want to listen to Deputy Ó Caoláin ask if he is guilty if he has a drink or shakes hands with them. It is not as simple as that. It is a matter of providing support. The message must be sent loud and clear that the farms on which arms are hidden will be confiscated. In this way we will tackle the root causes of the problem and can look forward to a new beginning.

I wish to share time with the Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, and Deputy O'Flynn.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The necessity to recall the Dáil in these circumstances is another depressing calendar addition to our nation's history. For many there was movement towards political co-operation and a resolution of the conflict through peaceful means which culminated after many long and difficult months in the British-Irish Agreement. The achievement of agreement was not inevitable, even given all the work done by the various party leaders. The ensuing euphoria and the outcome of the referendum which was carried with overwhelming support, should have sent a clear message to anyone interested in the concept of democracy that the people wanted peace.

Where does democracy lie? On 15 August hundreds of ordinary citizens headed towards Omagh — some on a cultural visit, others to buy school outfits for their children, to celebrate a birthday or a new job, to be part of the annual religious procession in honour of the Assumption or just browse on a busy Saturday afternoon — a cross-section of life which was turned upside down and torn inside out in one fell swoop.

As a Deputy for Donegal North-East, I express my sincere sympathy to the Doherty, Barker and McLaughlin families, the families of Oran, Sean and James who did not return alive to the Inishowen peninsula. I extend my sympathy to the families of their Spanish friends, Fernando and Rocia, who also died. I sympathise with all the other families whose loved ones died or were injured.

The families in Buncrana of those who died or were injured would like me to take the opportunity to express their gratitude to the people of Omagh, the surgeons, doctors, nurses, emergency services and lay people, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the bomb. Everyone I spoke to expressed utter astonishment at the level of energy and hospitality from people at a time of great chaos and confusion. They also asked me to commend the work done by both the RUC and the Garda which facilitated the movement of large funeral corte ges at various times during the week. The tremendous support and leadership the clergy gave to all involved was unsurpassable. On behalf of the families I also thank the many dignitaries, personalities and thousands of others from all walks of life who have been there for the families and who continue to support them in a time of great distress.

Within the large corte ges on the streets throughout that week, it was noted that while not a word was spoken, everything was said in the silence of thousands of people. The glow of candles could not exorcise the darkness. The question that hung in the air was simple: why? Why did we have this darkness again, given the British-Irish Agreement and the resounding wish of the people to move forward in a peaceful manner?

Father Shane Bradley spoke in his homily at the funeral of the three young boys about the strange and alien place that Buncrana had been turned into — a land of dark shadow and appalling pain, an eerie place, lonely, desolate and full of inconsolable torment. These words encompassed, as close as words could, the experience one had on entering our peninsula. It was also felt by those who had lived through previous bombings and I have no doubt it was the same sensation in all the parishes and townlands surrounding Omagh and in Spain.

In the spontaneity of the applause for Bishop Seamus Hegarty's words of encouragement for David Trimble, Seamus Mallon, the new Assembly and the furthering of the peace process lay the confirmation of how those thousands of people wish to move forward. The British-Irish Agreement is the only alternative. Nobody who came close to the events of Omagh on 15 August wants to see another family go through the anguish and hurt that many of these families will go through for a long time to come. All of us must pursue the message of the Agreement and advocate the challenge of peaceful means at every opportunity. The price of 15 August was a high one for all of us and we cannot let it happen again.

Returning to where I began, it is truly sad to have to make this amendment to the Offences Against the State Act. It goes without saying that while a swift and decisive reaction to events such as those in Omagh is necessary, it is also important that adequate care is taken in presenting legislation that will be implemented in a fair and just manner. I commend the Bill and trust that the necessity for such legislation becomes a part of history that the island can move positively away from.

I attended the funeral in Omagh of Mrs. Geraldine Breslin and I decided then not to let this occasion pass without saying what was on my mind. Two things struck me when I was in the church. First, I only wished that those who planted the bomb could be there to see the grief of the family, relatives and friends and to experience the sheer agony and anguish in the church and throughout the town of Omagh. That was but one of many funerals. I wished that the bombers could have been there to see the havoc they had wrought on decent people.

My second feeling was that now more than ever the Agreement must work. I came out of the church thinking that whatever doubts exist, however people might try to undermine it or whatever naysayers think, we owe it to the person being carried out of the church and the 27 others to make the peace agreement stick. We should send that message from this House. The sense of unity in the House today is not an accident. It is important to note a virtually unanimous voice on all sides of this democratic assembly for the world to hear, although it will probably pick up only sound bites. The world will see that virtually all parties in the Irish Parliament will not tolerate such people, will stamp them out and will make the peace agreement work. That sense of unity is critical.

We must respond to Omagh and we are doing so in two ways. We must respond in terms of security and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is doing so today by introducing extremely tough legislation which gives the Garda the weapons it needs to fight these desperate people. We also need to respond politically, which we are also doing by making the peace agreement work. I welcomed Gerry Adams's statement yesterday which was very significant. He said violence was at an end. Taken with Martin McGuinness's meetings with the de Chastelain commission about decommissioning, one sees some genuine movement in that area.

For two years we painstakingly negotiated a peace agreement with many false dawns. We had to go back and rework. We took the Agreement to a referendum, North and South, and established an Assembly. The next step is get the executive in place from which we will get the establishment of cross-Border bodies. We must move on; we cannot stop the process now. The next step is to get the shadow executive in place and critical in that regard is a meeting between Mr. Adams and Mr. Trimble very soon. Given how far we, the Unionist population and Mr. Adams's people, for want of a better word, have come, it is a little silly that those two protagonists cannot meet face to face and try to move this process forward. I believe they will do so in the not too distant future. That will open the door for the shadow executive to be appointed. Once that executive gets going, we can take it from there.

Omagh really means that more than ever the peace deal we have put in place must work. We owe it to those who died, their families, friends and relations to do no less than make it work. I am encouraged by what Mr. Adams said and by Mr. McGuinness's discussions with the decommissioning commission. I hope Mr. Clinton's visit will give further momentum so that in a short period the executive will be in place and we can take it from there. We should get on with the peace agreement.

I visited Northern Ireland on many occasions. The first time I visited there I was 16 years of age and it was the high point of my life at that time. I found the people warm and friendly and I do not believe they have changed. What has changed is the political climate of the Six Counties, and for the worst at this time. In the past 30 years we have seen unbelievable changes with television, radio and press bringing regular news to us from the stricken province. We hear how so-called patriots have out done each other in proving their devotion to their different causes. They have killed and maimed the innocent and have justified their evil acts by pro-claiming they are acting on our behalf, but they do not speak for me. We hear of atrocities and counter atrocities committed in the name of the people.

The horrific and outrageous campaign was lately indelibly marked by the senseless murder by loyalists of the three young boys and the brutal killing by the Real IRA over two weeks ago of 28 people in Omagh. The revulsion felt by the general public on both occasions was expressed instantly and unanimously. It showed clearly that those murderers do not act on our behalf and they certainly do not represent the massive majority throughout this island that voted for the British-Irish Agreement.

The Taoiseach, all the Members of the Dáil, the British Prime Minister, his Government and the vast majority of politicians in the North have been unequivocal in their support of peace in Ireland's 32 counties. We cannot allow our people to be further terrorised by the dissident groups who initiate the slaughter. Their leaders have been active in promoting their individual campaigns. The same leaders have been equally active in trying to distance themselves from the backlash of outraged public opinion that has become even more evident since the murder of the three Quinn boys and the carnage in Omagh.

I find it extraordinary that some of these people have made public statements asking for the protection of the law for their young families following threats made upon their children. Those threats came as a result of the parents' open espousal of the cause of the Real IRA and their public utterances in support of the continuation of the campaign of violence. They have consistently and openly advocated opposition to the laws of this land.

The young children of these people of violence should not be targeted; they did not do any wrong. However, the young children of other families should not be maimed for life or killed following the bombing of public places.

I find it equally difficult to understand the reaction of groups who say that the laws being introduced now will infringe civil rights. There is no more sacred civil right than the right to life. Why should young and old people be denied the right to a peaceful existence? Do those groups who protest against this amendment believe the murderers who perpetrated these evil killings will go away of their own accord? Did they go away following the different horrors we have experienced over the past 30 years?

I support the legislation. I had much more to say but I realise time is against us today in that each Member has only a few minutes to contribute. We will not allow the killers to turn back the clock. I never again want to witness the tears of the families of the innocent. I support the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform in their decision to introduce this amendment to the legislation.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Cosgrave and Stanton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I give my sympathy and prayerful support to all the victims of the Omagh bombing, not just to those who lost loved ones through death but also the injured and all who will carry the trauma of the Omagh bomb to their graves.

There are few in this House — I accept that you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, are one of them — who really understand the way in which the people of Omagh district have been affected by the work of a few evil, depraved people. I attended the prayer service in Monaghan town where thousands of people came out in genuine sympathy for what had happened to men, women and children of all political and religious backgrounds from both parts of this island and also from Spain. However, the difference between the assembled people in Monaghan and those at the funerals in Omagh had to be witnessed to be understood.

If those who planned and planted the bomb intended to divide the people of Omagh, they failed. The Church leaders, emergency staff, medical teams and their support backup, together with the security forces, deserve all our praise and thanks for the way they dealt with this unreal situation.

I support the Bill although I had hoped that with the signing of the British-Irish Agreement it would not have been necessary. The Bill is not an attack on civil liberties, as some have said here. Those who planned and planted the bomb took away the lives of 30 people in Omagh and damaged the lives of hundreds of others without thought to their right to either life or liberty. Avril Monaghan, together with her unborn twins, her daughter and her mother, and Fred White and his son are but two examples of families where liberty and life were taken without any due legal process.

Some people in this House believe the Bill is not necessary as public opinion has forced underground the Real IRA and others. Deputy Ó Caoláin criticised my party leader, Deputy John Bruton, for his lack of commitment to the peace process simply because he asked relevant questions. Deputy Bruton, like other leaders in the House, has worked hard, both in Government and in Opposition, to bring people from every background into a structure where they can build trust and understanding for the future. He led support for and urged all to vote "yes" for the British-Irish Agreement. Why did Deputy Ó Caoláin not give any public guidance to his people at that vital time? We cannot sit on the fence regarding the Real IRA or any such group. We must be either for or against peace.

My only worry regarding this Government is that, in the middle of the bombings of Portadown, Moira, Banbridge and others, which only by the grace of God did not have the same consequences as Omagh, the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, decided to close the Army barracks in Castleblaney without consultation. This was the wrong message at such a time.

I support the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, his Department, the Taoiseach and all others who are bringing forward this unfortunate but necessary legislation. There are still punishment beatings and there are those who still tacitly support the Real IRA and perhaps the IRA, which has not yet given up any bombs or bullets. I welcome the fact that, in the past few days, there has been a change of heart evident in the words uttered by the Sinn Féin leadership and that after many years, but only after the Omagh bombing, Gerry Adams saw fit to condemn an atrocity. It was no different from the one in Enniskillen, the one in Derry city or any others but the Sinn Féin leadership has at last realised that condemnation of such actions is important. The removal of the bomb and the bullet by some form of decommissioning is also important.

Much effort has been put into the British-Irish Agreement. One thing which was clear from Omagh to those of us who mixed with ordinary people during the sad funerals was that they do not want any other town or city or any other person to suffer as they have. They want to see the Agreement work. However, people cannot choose parts of the Agreement, such as the release of prisoners, and then not agree to decommission. I want to see David Trimble, Gerry Adams and others negotiating and bringing the Agreement to a point where we can live and work together. People cannot pick and choose from what is a bilateral agreement. I hope that, through the legislation we pass today, those who want to wreck the Agreement will be taken out once and for all and that we can live together and have hope for the future.

I welcome the Bill. The measures before the House are ones which each and every citizen would prefer were not called for. The actions of the murderers of Omagh not only call but scream for measures such as these to be placed on the Statute Book. It may appear harsh that the State has responded by the introduction of this legislation which replaces the responsibility on individuals to account for their actions and to explain themselves when there are reasonable grounds for the security forces to believe that there is a question for them to answer. It is hard for parents to bury innocent children. Those who indiscriminately took the lives of the young, old, mothers, fathers, children and the unborn must not be allowed to continue to take the fundamental civil liberty of life from other people.

The decision to place a time limit on the application of this legislation is of real importance. The State is not conferring totalitarian powers on itself, rather it is enacting laws to allow and ensure liberty. I hope these measures will be successful and that there will be no need to extend them beyond the year 2000.

Caution must always be exercised when enacting legislation and consideration must be given to the rights of all who may be affected. That is what a good and caring society ought to do. These repugnant terrorists showed no care or compassion. They took life and for what? It is right that those who recruit, train and direct unlawful organisations are punished and that those who use their premises for the purposes of terrorism are severely punished and denied the right to that property. Citizenship confers rights but it also confers duties, one of which is to respect the rights of others. Those who refuse to accept their duties must not be allowed to abuse the rights of others. Thirty people lost their lives and their families lost their loved ones. Every parent has the right to see his or her children grow up, mature and develop. Communities have a right to live in peace without the frightful scars which this terrible bombing has inflicted.

Through the ballot box, the people of Ireland, North and South, have stated that they want peace and to live and work in harmony. They do not want to see people cheated out of life, maimed, nor families torn apart, be they Catholic, Protestant or dissenter. The people want to be safe and they want their families and friends to be likewise. To achieve this, they are prepared to accept that it is necessary to implement this legislation. It is important that it be seen that this legislation is not open to abuse and the Bill affords such protection.

Many of my constituents have asked why the Government failed to enact this legislation prior to the summer recess if it was aware of the danger posed by these foolish, misguided people. The people have had enough. They are no longer prepared to accept legislative inaction. They have told their TDs to act responsibly and introduce laws to protect them, their families and the people of this island and not to expose them to the hurt, sorrow and shame which this country has endured in recent weeks. That is not to say they are prepared to allow the State, the Garda Síochána, the Army or the courts to act unreasonably. People want peace. We are their political leaders and we must do all possible to stop this small band of foolish people from depriving anyone else of the most basic human right. In so doing we must always be aware of the rights of all and introduce laws which afford the maximum protection to the innocent but which are not so weak as to allow the guilty to side-step the courts.

It is right that it be deemed an offence to withhold information. There is an obligation on everyone to be honest and forthright. Any person who has the smallest piece of information which may assist the State in preventing murder and violent crime must give that information. Those who do not do so are, and will be seen to be, guilty of evil crimes.

Our hearts go out to those bereaved and injured in Omagh, Donegal, Spain and elsewhere over the past 30 years and all victims of terrible acts of horror. Unless one has been personally affected by such horror it is hard to imagine what it must be like for parents to face their children's empty beds or children to have to face the rest of their lives with the memory that their mother or father was slaughtered. Thousands have died and thousands more have had their lives ruined by physical or emotional damage over the past 30 years.

The Minister of State, Deputy Séamus Brennan, said he wished the bombers could be present at the funerals to see the grief. I wonder whether it would have made a difference to them. The bombers left a car loaded with explosives in the centre of a market town. If they were patriots they would not have had the bomb there at all. They say the warning went wrong. There is no justification for that. They ran and allowed the atrocity to happen. Deputy Jim Higgins said they meant it to happen and I think he is right, they meant the slaughter to occur. This horror is worse than we realise. If we contemplate that, we are dealing with a horror even greater than I can take on board. This organisation endeavoured to put a large bomb in a car ferry. Imagine what would have happened if it went off in the middle of the Irish Sea. I support the legislation being introduced today. It is time the so-called patriots were rounded up and locked up.

The Irish people, North and South, have voted in a democratic referendum and have directed that violence must end for good. Terrorists who reach back to the 1918 election to justify, by misguided and flawed reasoning, a mandate to carry out an armed struggle have been ordered by the people or Ireland to stop. It is the wish of the people that the war be declared over for good and that all weapons be decommissioned. All those who are for peace must isolate people who are for violence by declaring for peace. They cannot have it both ways.

I join the Taoiseach, my colleagues in Government and all the other Members who, today and in the immediate aftermath of the Omagh tragedy, have been united in their condemnation of this heinous crime.

Never in the 30 years of violence and death which has gripped Northern Ireland, have we witnessed such carnage as was unleashed on Omagh on that Saturday afternoon only a few weeks ago. Never, in the history of the Northern Ireland troubles, were so many innocent men, women and children, from North and South, from Ireland and abroad, killed in such a brutal and cold blooded way. Never were so many people injured and never was the sense of shock and grief across all of Ireland so palpable and so heart felt as now.

In the days immediately following the Omagh atrocity, in my own city of Waterford which is far removed from the North, the palpable sense of horror and disbelief was evident on the face of everyone with whom I came in contact. The Mayor of Waterford, councillor Brian Swift, opened a book of condolence — which I signed — which allowed all the people of the Waterford to express their sympathy in a tangible way.

We were all only too familiar with the sight on our television screens of atrocities such as Greysteel and the Shankill Road bombings. What made the Omagh bombing so different and in many ways much worse was that ordinary people, right across this island, following on from the Agreement, had begun to hope and believe that such atrocities, after 30 years of bloody conflict, were finally at an end.

The objective of the Omagh bombing was not only to injure and kill innocent people but to destroy people's hopes and dreams for a peaceful and better future. We cannot allow that to happen. Gradually over the course of the past year, culminating in the signing of the Agreement by the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, things had been getting better.

At a meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference which I attended earlier in the year the determination to work together, even over the most difficult of issues, to reach agreement for the common good was very much in evidence, was very real and very genuine.

It is this determination, which has been shown by both the Irish and British Governments to work together to achieve change and to achieve a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland, which has frightened extremists such as those who carried out the Omagh bombing.

The only way we can truly and finally defeat these extremists is to continue to have both Governments working ever more closely together. I welcome the fact that, just as the Oireachtas has been called back in special session to debate new security legislation, so too the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, has recalled the British parliament today to debate similar security measures. That both parliaments are meeting on the same day to discuss similar measures is evidence of the high level of trust and co-operation which the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister have built up over the past year.

As the Taoiseach said, the first and best way to fight the perpetrators of such crimes as the Omagh bombing is to resolutely reaffirm our commitment to the British-Irish Agreement, as the Government has done. I fully support the Taoiseach and my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in bringing proposals before the House which seek to strengthen and amend the Offences against the State Acts, 1939-85. The Minister, Deputy O'Donoghue, has already outlined the details of the changes and I do not intend dwelling on them.

As I have said on previous occasions, the economic dynamic which was released as a result of the first ceasefire was very significant and must not be lost. Many people from the South visited the North, probably for the first time in many cases. Tourism in general in Northern Ireland recorded an upsurge. Foreign direct investment by multinationals in the North was stimulated with the active support of the United States administration. North-South trade grew significantly to such a level that the Republic became the third largest investor in Northern Ireland after Britain and the United States. All of this resulted in significant employment creation which has enabled ordinary people's lives to be much improved.

The larger island market can provide for a whole range of economic synergy and for the development and consolidation of strong successful companies. In the longer term both economies must become less dependent on external investment and assistance and rely more on strong indigenous sectors. For all this to happen, a high level of business confidence is necessary, whereby companies North and South can feel free to make business decisions without the fear of terrorist violence.

In the aftermath of the Omagh bomb, the perpetrators of the crime claimed their intended target was the business premises and commercial activities in Omagh town. Even if this was so, it is unacceptable.

For things to change in Northern Ireland and for the lives of ordinary people to get better, there must be economic as well as political development. The North-South structures provided for in the British-Irish Agreement can over time provide a strong underpinning for developments across a wide range of economic areas. Business confidence must also be strong and this can only come about when bombings and tragedies, such as that in Omagh, no longer occur.

I fully support my colleague and the Government in the measures brought before the House.

It is with a heavy heart that I support the measures being introduced. They are necessary and form an appropriate response to the murder of the three Quinn boys and the savagery in Omagh. They show our firm intent not to tolerate such activity and our complete solidarity with the vast majority of the people on the island who clearly and unequivocally said they wanted no more bombings. The measures are necessary because as legislators we must be seen to strongly underwrite the will of all the people on this issue.

My concern is that what we do here today is also dangerous. Interference with civil liberties should only be done with extreme reluctance and great care. We all recognise that these are special powers and we know why they are necessary and what we want to achieve by them, namely, empowerment of the Garda and the justice system to arrest, bring to trial and convict those guilty of planning, executing and sustaining acts such as the Omagh bombing. However, it is not Members of the House who will implement the measures. Neither is it Members who will implement the equivalent measures in Northern Ireland. Any abuse of the powers would be disastrous for future progress towards peace and a political settlement on the island. Even one case would be enough to damage confidence.

We are improving on a special and temporary basis the powers given to the Garda and the courts to deal with paramilitary organisations. I again stress that with special powers come special responsibilities. Despite the importance of the legislation it will only play a very small part in securing peace and progress in Northern Ireland. Full, early and generous implementation of the Agreement is the only guarantee of stability and progress. In this regard I wholeheartedly welcome the statement issued yesterday evening by Sinn Féin which gave a clear commitment to peaceful and democratic means. Real progress is being made: our responsibility is to foster the progress and maintain the pace of change.

We should never underestimate the fear which exists on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland and it will take time to remove the fear and mistrust. Far more important, ongoing evidence of progress and a delivery on the cornerstone of the Agreement, namely, parity of esteem, is necessary. Because of the nature of this legislation, I urge the Minister to consider establishing an outside watchdog which would have a role in reporting on implementation of this legislation. Implementation of the legislation is a matter for the gardaí and the courts and cannot be open to outside pressure or interference but, because the measures represent a curtailment of civil liberties, it would be appropriate that cases be reported to the human rights commission to be established under the British-Irish Agreement. This requirement should not delay implementation of the legislation. The commission would be in a position to express concerns it feels appropriate. It would provide a public assurance that special powers were being properly implemented and it would strengthen the legislation before us today.

In contrast to Deputy O'Malley, it saddens me deeply that on 1 January 2000 these special powers will still be on our Statute Book. I hope the effect of this legislation can be so targeted and so effective that we can remove it before that date. I urge the Minister to make specific provision which would allow him to bring a motion before the Oireachtas to remove these provisions at a time which he considers appropriate. This would provide an impetus not to allow the legislation to continue to its natural end on 31 December 2000.

I ask the Leader of the Opposition why he feels it is helpful to the peace process to try to rewrite the British-Irish Agreement through the columns of the daily newspapers. Why does he find it appropriate to encourage isolation and polarisation on the sensitive issues of decommissioning and the establishment of the executive? These are not issues for party politics.

I ask our national media, the Independent Group in particular, why they describe those who perpetrated atrocities such as the Omagh bombing as the last remaining republican groups and republican sources. This gives credence to the suggestion that these people are the core of republicanism. They are not. I am a republican and a Nationalist and proud of it. I am a member of the largest republican party in this country. I believe that erroneous descriptions such as these give a status to the groups involved and encourage a belief that they have a legitimate message.

I wish to emphasise three points concerning the legislation before us and before the British Parliament in Westminster. These measures are necessary but they will play only a small part in ending paramilitary violence on this island. Full and early implementation of the British-Irish Agreement will do far more. When the people of Ireland from all traditions walk down the road together, the paramilitaries will be left behind. These measures place a grave onus on the Garda Síochána, the RUC and others to whom extra powers are being given. Abuse of these powers will end peace and any hope of progress. Any person abusing these powers will be guilty of an even greater crime than those we are targeting today.

Terence McSwiney, who died on hunger strike in 1920, left us a phrase which has been the property of republicans ever since: "It is not those who inflict the most but those who suffer the most who will endure." I address this phrase to those in the so-called Real IRA and others who persist with the bomb and the bullet. We have suffered enough. The time has come to turn the suffering around and use it as a positive tool to build our future. We need suffer no more to achieve our aim of an Ireland united in its people and its territory. The time has come to stop, not only because of Omagh but because the people of Ireland, North and South, Nationalist and Unionist, Catholic and Protestant, have said loudly, clearly and without equivocation that it must stop.

This legislation has been prompted by the Omagh bombing, an atrocity which all right thinking people roundly condemn. The bombing is in stark contrast to the political developments in Ireland and the new relationship which exists between the British and Irish Governments. Mr. Adams has given a sincere indication that he believes IRA violence is at an end. Some Members opposite may find his statement incomplete but it should be accepted for what it is. If it is accepted it will be followed by fuller expressions from the same quarter. Now is not the right time for semantics or word play.

Many might think that introducing legislation such as this is indicative of a return to the dark days of atrocity piled upon atrocity, but nothing could be further from the truth. Those who advocate and use violence for political ends are thoroughly marginalised, so much so that this legislation, while necessary, may not last long.

Inevitably, debates such as this become dominated by views on whether violence is justified in any circumstances. The clear message from the two referenda results is that it is not and nobody calling himself or herself a republican could argue otherwise. Over the years, republicans of various hues have sought to justify violence by recourse to history, British occupation and other diverse reasons. The current circumstances belie those previous justifications. We are at a stage where coercion and repression are at an end and where the British Government stands willing to facilitate a united Ireland if that is the express wish of the Irish people. The poll taken on Good Friday is, in spite of the views of those who nit-pick on this point, a real andde facto expression of self-determination by the Irish people. Those in the so-called Real IRA should take careful note of that demonstrable fact.

My only concern in regard to this legislation is that it should be subjected to more regular review. Perhaps when it comes up for review in the year 2000, the Minister will take this into consideration. I am also concerned at how the gardaí will use the new powers conferred on them. I am sure the Minister will clarify on Committee Stage the lines within which the legislation will operate.

I wish to share time with Deputies Finucane and Ulick Burke.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I do not like to say "I told you so" but for 16 years I have opposed the IRA in all its forms, in my native town of Dundalk in County Louth in general and in this Chamber. Only two months ago, I was the only Deputy in this House to oppose the release of prisoners. I did so because of my total opposition to terrorism and my belief that it should never be rewarded. Having said that, I wish to express my total support for the measures the Minister is introducing today. However, it is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

The tragedy of Omagh in which so many women and children were killed was such that violent republicanism will be dead in Ireland for several years to come. The rats who have murdered people for the past 30 years have retreated into their bolt holes. Some of them will hopefully be bolted up for good but some will escape. I do not believe violent republicanism is dead. Like Dracula, it would be necessary to drive a stake through its breast to achieve that.

We should seek to inculcate in our people a spirit of nationalism as opposed to republicanism. Republicanism equates with violence. Part of the problem is that generations of Irish people have been brought up listening to mythical teachings in the schools. We need to foster the kind of nationalism demonstrated by John Redmond, a man who sought a united Ireland through peaceful means.

For 30 years, we have witnessed the appeasement of terror in this country. Politicians are currently jumping on the bandwagon following the horrific slaughter at Omagh. Why were these measures not introduced 30 years ago? Why were they not introduced after Enniskillen in which an equally horrendous assault occurred? Why was action not taken after Warrenpoint in which 18 young men were butchered? The Government was aware of the perpetrators in that instance but the DPP refused to press charges, probably for political reasons. I indict all Governments over the past 30 years, including my own, for being soft on terrorism. They were constantly looking over their shoulders to see if people would approve of the introduction of repressive measures or if such action would be considered politically correct. I am not politically correct and over the past 16 years I have unambiguously opposed the IRA — sometimes under threat to my life and my town.

The former Minister for Justice, Mr. Paddy Cooney, Deputy O'Malley and Deputy John Bruton are the only people in this House with the political balls to address this problem. I hope time will show that the Minister has the same courage. These measures we have been forced to take are an indication of how much out of control this country has been for the past 30 years when death stalked the land — death promoted by Adams and McGuinness, the IRA's chief of staff, who are guilty by association of the deaths of hundreds of Irish people. Now they are being hailed as international statesmen. They are the bastards who have brought Ireland to its knees. They were a cause of this horrendous tragedy and now they pose as international statesmen because they have been sung a song by the British Government, who sing a different song to everybody — including the loyalists — and have done for many years.

Like everyone else I want a peaceful Ireland. I live in the front theatre of it, just two miles from the Border. I have known people from both sides of the Border who have lost their lives, people who have been murdered by various terrorist gangs while we stood idly by. Terrorism has to be confronted and pious platitudes and pleas for people to sit down and rationalise are simply not enough. There must be a deterrent factor. Some time in the future dissent will occur in the Assembly and the IRA terrorists will emerge from their hideaways to kill again. We must accept that society has to be protected by Governments and they should have the courage to govern without looking over their shoulders to see if it is politically expedient to do so.

I wish to dissociate myself from the comments made by Deputy Ó Caoláin when he castigated the Garda Síochána. The organisation to which he belongs has taken the lives of 16 gardaí and seven members of the Irish Army. That is a shameful record. He should hang his head in shame when he makes comments in relation to the fairness of the Garda.

These measures in a normal society would not be necessary but, sadly, we have to recognise that we live in an abnormal society and it is 30 years too late for many people. The Omagh bombing took the lives of 28 people and left many more maimed for life. There have been 3,700 people killed in the North and their lives were as valuable as those of the victims of Omagh. I commend the Minister for belatedly bringing in these measures and I indict my own party for its failure to do so in the years in which it was in power.

I welcome this legislation. It is four months since the British-Irish Agreement and during that time there have been many other bomb efforts in the North and attempts were made to send bombs to the UK. It is regrettable that we waited so long to introduce this Bill. Perhaps we were distracted by the euphoria that followed the British-Irish Agreement. The Real IRA and the Continuity IRA had clearly stated that they would continue their operations because they did not support the Agreement. However, it is sad to think that the tragedy of Omagh which had a palpable resonance throughout the country has brought us back here to debate legislation. Our party supports this legislation and it irks me a great deal when I hear people criticising our leader, Deputy Bruton. We have always been known as a party which supports law and order. We have never deviated in our support in this type of situation. Unlike many others, we believe Sinn Féin and the IRA are the same, as are the Thirty-two County Sovereignty Committee and the Real IRA. It is interesting to note that Gerry Adams, his party, the Thirty-two County Sovereignty Committee and the Real IRA, who perpetrated this terrible atrocity, have condemned this legislation. I would like to think that the spirit of co-operation which exists on this side of the House is responded to by the Government and that we do not hear unfair criticism of a party leader who has always been responsible and spoken his mind.

It is an honour to speak after Deputy McGahon. I admire him because he was not afraid to speak out at a difficult time when the country was full of those with a sneaking regard for the IRA cause. I ask the Minister to implore his colleague, John Wilson, to meet the families of those who have lost their lives as soon as possible. The Minister is aware of my concerns, particularly at having to stomach the measure in the Agreement which relates to the capital murder of gardaí.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. In an ideal world this legislation would not be necessary. However, we are far from that ideal world and have been for the past 30 or 40 years. The murder of men, women and children in Omagh over two weeks ago shocked and sickened every right thinking citizen not only on this island but throughout the world.

This legislation is necessary and it must remain on the Statute Book for as long as there are groups in society who perpetrate such horrific and murderous acts against the people of this island. The legislation is being introduced at a time when there is widespread demand for this action from the general public, unlike in the past when efforts were made to introduce necessary emergency legislation and people were not ready. At that time, they did not realise that the efforts of the Government were necessary to stem the growing tendency towards violence by the IRA and subversives. I welcome the Minister's and the Taoiseach's clear declaration of their intention to destroy the existence of violent fringe groups in society.

In the past there was an ambivalence towards republican activities and anything that was antiBritish was lauded. This ambivalence existed in the Fianna Fáil Party and was partly responsible for the failure of many Government efforts to eradicate these groups from our society.

I support the Government's provisions and I have full confidence in the ability and capacity of the Garda to fairly implement the new powers given to them by this new legislation.

It is unfair of Members to compare the work of the Garda with the failure of the British and Northern Irish police forces in the past. We have all learnt from past misdeeds. We must realise that the lives of many gardaí have been taken by these subversives. This must be put in the proper context. Gardaí must perform their duties in a proper fashion and implement the powers given to them by this legislation in a fair way. It is also important to show full commitment to the British-Irish Agreement by passing this legislation. I hope it will enable all people on this island to live in harmony so that the wounds of past deeds can heal in a new environment of peace and goodwill.

Táim ag roinnt ama leis na Teachtaithe Moynihan, Doherty agus Gregory. Beidh cúig nóiméad agam, cúig ag an Teachta Moynihan, trí ag an Teachta Doherty agus dhá nóiméad ag an Teachta Gregory.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, believes that the people who conceived, plotted, organised and executed the Omagh bombing are murderers who can claim no conceivable justification for their recklessness and their deeds. We believe the group is motivated by an essentially racist hatred that amounts to fascism. The self-styled Real IRA are fascists; I will not use the Irish language name they have adopted, Óglaigh na hÉireann, as to do so would be a slur on the men and women of our Defence Forces. I hope the Minister for Defence will address this issue in this debate.

Whatever about the callousness of the deed — the deaths, maiming and mayhem — the perpetrators had a political point to make. They appear to believe that by their murderous incivility they can reduce this society, which is in the process of dramatic political renewal and transformation, and return it to the level of exacting raw retribution and vengeance. The way out of the morass into which the Real IRA wishes to force us is through vigorously implementing the British-Irish Agreement, especially its human rights provisions. In future, therefore, everybody can be confident that their grievances can be met by political and legal means and that if they are accused of an offence, even a serious offence, they will be given due process and a fair trial. Even with such provisions in place, can the public be assured that people convicted under this legislation are guilty?

It is presumably the intention of those who retain their attachment to terrorism to distract the State from the business of creating a new political reality and to move it as far as possible in the direction of their lawless and intolerant world view. Reactionary, hastily cobbled together legislation is itself a political tactic which must be resisted by democratic political means.

How should one approach this legislation which is introduced by the Government in the wake of the Omagh mass murder? In an article inThe Observer of 23 August last, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Blair, suggested that the use of punitive security measures hardens support for the political wings of terrorist groups. He said they were often politically counterproductive and were seen as a substitute for political progress. We do not need, as a result of Omagh, an environment where false confessions can be made in certain circumstances. If that happens the authority of the State is weakened and the hand of those who retain their attachment to the bullet and semtex is strengthened.

The British-Irish Agreement had the effect of creating a split within the ranks of military republicanism. The Omagh bombing, which apparently arose from this split, has been condemned by the Sinn Féin leadership which itself is opposed to the decommissioning of the arsenal of weapons and semtex of violent republicans. That contains a mixed message for spokespersons for militant republicanism. The Offences against the State (Amendment) Bill, 1998, is the Government's legislative response. It is a security response which runs counter to the necessary political response that is appropriate in the wake of the British-Irish Agreement. It, too, sends a mixed signal to the community.

The society envisaged by the British-Irish Agreement is not a society governed by draconian legislation. Draco, the Athenian tyrant of the 7th century BC whose name is given to legislative measures of this type, is not the type of political figure who could prosper in the climate which the British-Irish Agreement seeks to create.

However, there are elements of the legislation which are welcome. It is good that the absolute right to the enjoyment of private property, which is at present guaranteed under the Constitution, should be qualified in the interest of what the Constitution refers to as the common good. That is the essence of the provisions on the forfeiture of property used in the pursuit of terrorism with the co-operation of its proprietor. The updating of the provisions to deal with the training of persons in the making and use of firearms is also rational and intelligent.

The Green Party has tabled several amendments to the Bill. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves, with the bereaved and wounded of Omagh still suffering and mourning and with the promise of the British-Irish Agreement, we do not feel it would be appropriate to oppose the Bill outright. We are willing to believe that, in the extraordinary circumstances which gave rise to the publication of the Bill, the Government will be generous in its attitude to the amendments we have tabled and will allow the full Legislature to legislate on this occasion.

The Bill proposes to use the failure of an accused person to answer questions as corroboration of a Garda chief superintendent's opinion that the accused is a member of an unlawful organisation. It does not provide for video or audio tape to be used in recording the circumstances in which the person exercised his legal right to silence while in Garda custody. It therefore exposes accused persons to serious risks and the gardaí to serious charges, including perjury. We need to be completely assured that the Government is absolutely committed to securing safe convictions and to protecting the human and civil rights of innocent persons who may fall under suspicion. In this regard the Government's attitude, even its bona fides would be most clearly expressed by its willingness to take account of our position relating to the mandatory audio and video taping of interviews taking place under Garda custody on foot of arrests made under this legislation. We urge acceptance of that amendment in particular.

It is with great sadness that we discuss this legislation. Most people can remember where they were on Saturday, 15 August when they heard the news of the massacre in Omagh. This legislation is a response to what happened in Omagh and to the murder of the Quinn brothers in Ballymoney. We discuss this legislation with a heavy heart because it infringes on people's rights but we have a duty to ensure that what happened in Omagh never happens again. Great goodwill was experienced after the signing of the British-Irish Agreement. We thought that the events of the past 30 years could be consigned to the past. Unfortunately, the Omagh bombing has cast us back 30 years and shattered Ireland's reputation throughout the world.

While reservations may be expressed about some parts of this Bill it is, on balance, welcome and will, we hope, eliminate the gun from Irish politics for all time. It is very easy for people in the South or across the water to say what should be done in Northern Ireland, but we must listen to the opinions and wishes of the ordinary people of the North. At the funerals of the Omagh victims the message was heard very clearly that tough action is needed by both Governments to eliminate the men of violence once and for all.

I commend the Minister for preparing this legislation in a little over two weeks. It is important that checks and balances are put in place and that this legislation is reviewed on an ongoing basis. I hope by the time it is next reviewed the menace which gave rise to it will have been stamped out.

It is fortunate that we are Members of an Irish Parliament with a privileged opportunity on behalf of our people to take on the function of protecting this democracy. That is what is at issue. The response of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform must be commended. It was swift, to the point and acknowledged the seriousness of the threat to this State and, indeed, to the Northern Ireland State. It also recognised that serious legislative processes had to be introduced. That is the way one approaches these matters in a democracy.

I have heard people here today speaking out of the two sides of their mouths. People seem to forget that the philosophy of republicanism is admirable, desirable and recognised world-wide in many great democracies, including our own. It must also be recognised that the Fianna Fáil party in Government never flinched in the past. Our aspirations and aims have always been to achieve the unity of this nation through peaceful means. Primarily we have stood up against the threat and the challenge of subversiveness on many occasions. We introduced the Offences Against the State Act, 1939, and amended it after a Supreme Court challenge. We introduced internment when we had to contend with difficulties. Today, in a different society with different attitudes and values, we are leading our people again and responding to their wishes. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform are entitled to all the commendations we can give them.

There is a distinct difference between what happened in Omagh and anything that happened in the past. It occurred after a referendum had taken place both North and South. It was the first time the people of the whole island had taken on a constitutional function in relation to the future of the North and South. Any organisation or group that would seek to challenge that would challenge the Constitution. A challenge to the Constitution is, singularly, the most serious challenge that can be made in a State. It is a direct challenge to democracy and it must be met with all that the Government and this Parliament can use to respond to it.

We must legislate to protect freedom. People must recognise that freedom is special. It gives one the right to communicate, to travel and to exchange information. However, when people go outside that freedom they challenge those rights. Consequently, I hope that members of any illegal organisation who are duly brought before the courts will be held in detention — even if it is necessary to amend this legislation — for the duration of a period the Government considers necessary to exclude them from the normal freedoms we enjoy in this society. They cannot be tolerated.

It is ironic that the Dáil is meeting today to pass additional special powers in response to the Omagh bomb, yet tomorrow a hero's welcome will be given to a person who gave the order for the "no warning" bombs in the Sudan and Afghanistan. The end result was undoubtedly the same — innocent people were the victims. In Omagh 28 people died, in the Sudan 26 innocent victims died.

The US itself has experienced anti-civilian bombings, the most devastating being the Oklahoma bombing which resulted in nearly 200 people losing their lives. The response was not to stage-manage an array of special powers. Instead, the police, using their resources under existing law, went after the bombers and got them.

The response here is a one day public relations exercise designed to give the impression that something temporary is being done, which will be used exclusively to deal with those responsible for the Omagh bomb. That is far from the reality. Experience shows that emergency powers, which are presented as temporary measures, quickly become permanent. They are used for purposes for which, and against persons for whom, they were never intended and produce a litany of miscarriages of justice, to which several speakers referred. For example, the Special Criminal Court, set up by the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act, 1972, an Act which itself was speeded through——

Acting Chairman

Deputy Gregory, your time is up.

The Special Criminal Court is being utilised in your constituency against three anti-drugs activists. I doubt if anybody in this House at the time that Bill was presented would believe that could happen, but that is the reality.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I wish to share my time with Deputy Perry and Deputy Deenihan.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): The awful atrocity committed at Omagh shortly after the British-Irish Agreement had been supported by more than 90 per cent of the Irish people has lead to the introduction of this legislation. One could say that previous atrocities should have lead to legislation like this and one can recall the double speak of past politicians who did little to condemn many IRA atrocities, but it is now time to look forward. It is good that we are now in a new era where straight condemnation of the Omagh atrocity is heard from all political parties in this House.

I do not wish to nit-pick on present negotiations as I feel it is not enough to criticise one side or the other since the British-Irish Agreement has set out the necessary requirements. However, I heard Deputy Ó Caoláin ag labhairt as Gaeilge agus as Béarla anseo — is cuma cé acu teanga a úsáidtear. His reference to the RUC being a discredited force rings somewhat hollow when one recalls, as my colleague, Deputy McGahon, did, that the IRA killed 16 gardaí and seven soldiers in this State. They were never discredited and they are not discredited. It is another form of double standard to use the RUC as legitimate targets while at the same time there is a history of killing members of our security forces. I suppose that is not the first instance of double speak.

There are concerns about this legislation. Civil liberties are important, and that includes the civil liberties of the majority of the Irish people. Nobody wants to see innocent people jailed — there are too many examples of that — but I hope the people who explain their position will have nothing to fear.

I am concerned about section 9 which deals with the withholding of information. It could easily happen that an innocent person could, for example, stumble across an IRA unit hiding guns. If the person knows those involved and they know him, he might find himself seriously concerned about his safety because obviously he is automatically identified if the information is given. Out of sheer fear for his life, he may not be prepared to give the information. I hope that in such court cases the possible sentence of five years would not be imposed. I hope the courts will be lenient in a situation like that.

However, I have no qualms about any section of the Bill which deals with the godfathers of the IRA who are the real murderers. They are sleveens who sit at home safely sending out young people to do their dirty work. While the driver of the car in Omagh was a serious criminal, the people who made the bomb or caused it to be made are much more guilty and deserve greater punishment. No punishment could be severe enough for them.

We must all ensure that the peace process continues without a hitch. We must make it clear that no small group can usurp the authority of the State and we must make certain that life will return to normal and continue as such from this day forward. I support this legislation.

On behalf of the constituents of Sligo-Leitrim, I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the survivors of this outrage, to the relatives and friends of the victims, and to the people of Omagh and County Tyrone. Ireland's blackest day was 15 August.

If we wish to take effective action against terrorism, we should keep in mind the need for preventive work as well as security measures such as this legislation, which will be effective and which I welcome.

In this context I would like to speak specifically on the activities of Co-Operative Ireland, formerly Co-Operation North. Since 1979 Co-Operative Ireland has worked to advance understanding and respect by promoting practical co-operation between the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is a non-political organisation but believes that political progress must be supported by the building of a network of positive relationships between the peoples of this island at individual, organisational and community level. While such relationships can be promoted and supported at political level, they cannot be built directly at that level and require complementary voluntary activity.

To date, Co-Operative Ireland has set itself the task of generating examples of North-South co-operation and in this way gives 20,000 people each year the opportunity to meet and explore common concerns and interests. It does this through two main programmes, Youth, Education and Community Programme and Economic Co-operation. The Youth, Education and Community programme involves young people and others meeting in circumstances of managed co-operation to undertake joint projects and to learn from each other's experiences. For example, links are taking place this month between Easkey Development Group, Sligo, and Fintona Development Group, Tyrone, involving youth groups looking at leadership training and sport, and Ballymote Youth Club, Sligo, is exchanging with Sarsfield Juvenile Committee in west Belfast.

Economic Co-operation links have been built between local authorities North and South, with the Agricultural Science Association, tourism groups and small businesses. A thriving chamber of commerce link between Sligo and Coleraine grew from local authority links with Co-Operative Ireland.

Sadly, although an independent study on behalf of the North's central community relations unit concludes that most participants were overwhelmingly positive about their experience of North-South cross-Border and cross-community exchanges, a shortage of funds has forced a reduction in exchanges from 470 last year to an estimated 150 this year. That is regrettable. We should ensure that fund is increased. The same report stated: "It is largely because of the real and perceived absence of bias that Co-Operative Ireland has been able to retain, uniquely, the support of both sections of the community in Northern Ireland and hence go on to achieve the success for its programme which it currently enjoys." Co-Operative Ireland has responded to the changes which led to the British-Irish Agreement by broadening its aims to include the development of innovative partnerships with other organisations. An example of this is the link established between County Cork VEC and the South Eastern Education and Library Board. This link which started in 1996 has seen the successful piloting of a North-South transition year module in the curriculum this year, with further links between the organisations being established on the ground.

The vital role of organisations like Co-Operative Ireland is recognised and valued in the British-Irish Agreement. A pledge was made to positively examine the case for enhanced financial assistance for the work of reconciliation.

Many speakers dealt with the legislation before us. I compliment the Minister and the Taoiseach on introducing this legislation which is very welcome because it aims to take terrorism out of Ireland.

Co-operative Ireland has declared its willingness to use its knowledge, experience, skills and enthusiasm to assist in achieving peace. We for our part should ensure we enlist these qualities in the building of a stable future for all on this island. We should provide practical support to assist Co-Operative Ireland in achieving its aims which, I am sure, we all share.

I welcome this legislation and compliment my fellow countyman, Deputy O'Donoghue on bringing it forward. It is unfortunate that its introduction is as a result of the atrocity in Omagh — the previous Government had to introduce similar legislation to deal with the murderers of Veronica Guerin. Nevertheless this legislation needs to be introduced if we are ever to come to terms with the threat of terrorism in this country. There is almost universal support in the House for the introduction of the measures in the Bill. This is the first occasion on which the Dáil has been united in the fight against terrorism here. If Sinn Féin is genuine and honest in its expression of condemnation of the tragedy in Omagh and in its declaration that the atrocity carried out there should be the end of violence, this represents an historic occasion. Time will be the test of Sinn Féin's commitment to peace. However, I believe that party is genuinely committed to peace.

There are those, such as Deputy Ó Caoláin, who have attacked Deputy John Bruton during this debate despite the fact that, since entering politics and becoming a Member of this House, Deputy Bruton has been absolutely consistent in his condemnation of violence. The agenda currently being pursued by the Government is the agenda of Deputy Bruton. The Government may use different or more carefully chosen language, but the Bill represents the type of law and order mechanism Deputy Bruton has promoted since entering political life. To attack my party leader and accuse him of being destructive is unfair and inaccurate. Ten years from now I hope Deputy Bruton will be obliged to admit to the Dáil that his analysis and perception of Sinn Féin's intentions were wrong. If that happens, it will be a great day for this country. History will be the judge of Deputy Bruton's analysis and his demand that Sinn Féin and the IRA use clearer language. In the past I listened to people, many of whom are seated on the Government benches, making speeches at church gates, county council meetings and in this House and the equivocation, ambivalence and doublespeak which marked those speeches led to a veiled support for a great deal of the IRA's activity in Northern Ireland. Members of Sinn Féin and the IRA believed that even though politicians in the South condemned their actions an underlying republicanism coloured the beliefs of many people on this side of the Border. That is particularly true of members of the Fianna Fáil Party. However, I gladly welcome the introduction of this legislation which represents clear action on Fianna Fáil's part.

Differences on the question of law and order — both in general and in Northern Ireland — between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are minimal. That is an historic development. The total metamorphosis in the attitudes of a number of Fianna Fáil Members who have already contributed to this debate has been dramatic. I welcome that and I hope it will continue in the future.

The future peace and prosperity of this country depends largely on the workings of the British-Irish Agreement. I am concerned about the pace at which the various provisions of the Agreement are being put in place. I recall reading that the North-South bodies are supposed to be established by October and that other structures were to have been put in place by now. However, there seems to have been a lack of progress. I hope the visit of the American President will accelerate the process because progress must be made. From the many conversations I have had with people in Northern Ireland, I am aware that they are anxious to see how the assembly will work, how its operation will affect their lives and correct the democratic deficit in Northern Irish politics.

It is important that the Taoiseach should seek full implementation of the provisions of the British-Irish Agreement. It is very important that we support the Government in whatever way possible. I am involved with a group in Listowel, which is twinned with Downpatrick. We can support the Government in creating and fostering links with various communities in the North through twinning, business and culture.

Although Fine Gael supports this legislation and will support any legislation to deal competently and conclusively with those who set out to subvert the State it feels the maximum period of detention in the Bill is inadequate. We fail to see why armed paramilitary murderers should not be subjected to the possibility of the same period of maximum detention as drug barons. In both cases we are dealing with the deliberate killing of people. For that reason Fine Gael has tabled an amendment to extend the possible period of detention to seven days.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Moloney, Brady and Brendan Smith.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The proposed legislation has correctly been described as tough, far reaching and draconian. The issue for us is not whether such legislation is desirable, but whether it is necessary. If we sought to debate that issue in an isolated academic vacuum, if we wilfully blinded ourselves to the atrocity of Omagh, if we ignored the existence on this island of a tiny anti-democratic group prepared to use mass slaughter to further its aims, our answer would undoubtedly be that this legislation is not desirable, but to conduct this debate in that manner would be to ignore reality and do a disservice to the people.

In the aftermath of the British-Irish Agreement as endorsed by the democratically expressed wishes of the people and in light of the calculated slaughter perpetrated at Omagh, the questions which we, as a Parliament, must address are two-fold. First, as a democracy, is it necessary to enact new legislation to protect our citizens and institutions? Second, does the package of measures proposed represent a reasoned and balanced response? I believe that the answer to both questions is "yes". In the aftermath of Omagh legislation is needed. I do not subscribe to the view that the need for this legislation ought to have been seen before the Omagh atrocity. To express that view at this stage is offensively opportunistic.

The success of the Garda and security forces in thwarting other attempts at mass destruction was powerful evidence that existing measures were adequate. No politician, commentator or columnist had suggested the need for legislation, but depravity on the scale perpetrated at Omagh was not alone unforeseeable, it was unthinkable in the context of the British-Irish Agreement referenda.

This House has not initiated this legislation, the bombers in Omagh have. The new offences proposed in the Bill would not cause difficulty in any democracy. There is no rational reason for criminal law to ignore those who direct or train members of unlawful organisations or grant an immunity to those who possess articles connected with the commission of subversive offences, nor is there a reason that the collection of information of the nature set out in section 8 should not attract a criminal sanction.

The proposed new offence of withholding information is more far reaching but not without legislative precedent. Many Acts from finance to road traffic Acts require citizens to provide information in their possession to State authorities on pain of criminal sanction. There is no democratic reason any citizen should be allowed the callous luxury of unreasonable silence in circumstances where he or she is in a position to prevent an atrocity.

The evidential provisions of the Bill will perhaps prove to be the most controversial. Some if viewed in isolation are capable of being seen as amounting to a significant shift in the traditional balance which has existed between the State and an accused citizen. It would be a mistake to view them in isolation. Undoubtedly they represent an important new weapon in the arsenal of the

Garda and in giving them this power we place a great deal of trust in their integrity, in the expectation that they will use these provisions honestly. We also place our traditional trust in the Judiciary in the expectation that it will use the new measures within the constitutional framework which guarantees fair procedures. In some instances the evidential provisions amount to little more than in certain circumstances, if it is just and appropriate, allowing a court to draw an inference from conduct which ordinary citizens would find suspicious.

The provisions of this Bill must be used to teach the so-called Real IRA that it is no longer a case of "tiocfaidh ár lá". Their day is, to use the language of the week "a thing of the past, over, done with and gone"— tá ár lá thart, críochnaithe, imithe.

It is never an easy task for Parliament and Government to introduce laws which curtail people's freedom. This Bill, setting out these new laws, is regrettable and would not be necessary if this island was at peace with itself. A violent act at 3.10 p.m. on Saturday, 15 August in the lovely town of Omagh shattered that peace. Faceless people who call themselves the Real IRA committed murder on behalf of no one but themselves. I regret and resent these people calling themselves the Real IRA, because the real IRA placed its cause in the hands of God and vowed to cherish all the children of the nation equally.

These faceless people used a national pattern day, 15 August, to maim and murder. For centuries on this day our people have assembled at holy places to pray. There was no thought of cherishing the nation's children in Omagh. We witnessed the slaughter of the innocent, including the unborn. To these faceless ones we must say, in the name of the people of this island, "stop or be stopped".

The founding fathers of this nation included in the national flag the traditional colours of the two groups on the island. If that is how they saw our future, that is good enough for me and the people I represent. It is sad to think that, 200 years after the coming together of Catholic, Protestant and dissenter in 1798 to make a nation state, the blood of all three groups was shed on a regrettable Saturday in Omagh. If the law we are asked to examine and pass today prevents such murderous deeds happening again, we will have acted wisely for and on behalf of our people. It may also hasten the day when we can all live in peace and harmony and treat each other as equals on this beautiful island.

I thank Deputy Hanafin for sharing her time. I extend my sympathy to the victims of the Omagh bomb and their families, and hope the injured make a speedy recovery. Every Member wants to condemn the actions of the bombers and, more importantly, the godfathers who masterminded the operation. While the bomb caused death, destruction and tragedy it has led some people to realise, perhaps for the first time, the implications of terrorism. It has also brought people from all persuasions together and made them realise that we must, as a State and a democracy, introduce legislation which will at long last crush those subversives.

I congratulate the Taoiseach for his immediate response on the day of the bombing. I was on holiday in the region and I was proud, to say the least, to see him act immediately and show his determination to pursue the bombers. This has been followed up today by the Minister, who has introduced legislation which I support wholeheartedly. This bomb was not only an attack on the market town of Omagh but on all thinking people who supported the British-Irish Agreement and the peace process. It is worth noting that the best way we can support the people of Omagh is to support this legislation.

Deputy Doherty said we should be privileged to be Members of this House and be able to speak and act on behalf of those who were attacked two weeks ago. I would like to show solidarity with the people of Omagh, the families of the 3,000 people who were murdered over the past 30 years and the thousands more who were left injured, and the most effective and vocal way I can do that is by supporting this legislation.

It is also worth noting that since the Omagh bombing thousands of people, North and South, have come together to show their determination to crush this evil. Local authorities have met and church bodies and voluntary groups have arranged vigils and peace demonstrations. That has shown the commitment, belief and hope that at long last we can resolve our difficulties in peace and move forward from here. In that regard, this legislation is necessary and I fully support it.

I visited Omagh last week and was struck by the normality of the town after such a tragedy and of the people trying to build their lives once again. The Taoiseach said this morning that Omagh will build itself again and move forward, and I hope it will, but the concern is that the people there will be able to do likewise.

This legislation is a commitment by this House to the people of Omagh and the North that we are ready and willing to ensure that such an atrocity never occurs again. It is proper that we should go down this road. Only four months ago the people, North and South, for the first time in 80 years voted on the same day on the one issue, but a tiny minority have tried to upset that decision. Some 85 per cent of the people of the island and 95 per cent of Nationalists voted for peace.

I wholeheartedly support every line in this Bill, which is proper and timely. I congratulate the Government on it. I do not intend to be critical of Deputy Deenihan's contribution, but as a Fianna Fáil Member I find it rather difficult to accept his remark that Fianna Fáil is only acting in response to Omagh. I have often mentioned in the past the involvement of Fianna Fáil Governments down through the years, particularly de Valera's response during the emergency years, internment during the 1950s and most specifically the Offences against the State Act. Fianna Fáil's record has been clear and determined and we are back here today to show a full commitment to crush for all time the subversives who have tried to bring this State to a new low.

I congratulate all those involved in the preparation of the Bill, the Minister for introducing it and the Government for proposing it. I extend my sympathy to the relatives of the victims of the Omagh bombing. I hope we never again see any such atrocity committed in this State.

The Omagh bombing was an indiscriminate act of slaughter carried out against innocent people. Words cannot describe how we feel about that carnage. It was the most evil of deeds. Every right thinking person was horrified as we watched the unfolding horror or listened to news of the rising death toll.

Each of the deaths was an individual tragedy. The victims were ordinary people going about their lives, shopping for and with their children. Many who survived will carry physical scars until they die. Let us also consider the psychological injuries, the memories of the event and its aftermath and the sorrow of those who never got a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. What demented mind could see as targets people who were milling around in the street, enjoying an afternoon shopping or a local carnival? A terrible injustice has been inflicted on families and communities in Omagh, Tyrone, Buncrana and Spain.

It is perverse that the worst atrocity ever visited upon the North — there have been other desperate and multiple murders — should have occurred in the year when the foundations for peace were established. The vast majority of people, North and South, demonstrated their desire for peace by voting in favour of the British-Irish Agreement. They did so because they wanted an end to the fears and uncertainties of the past, because they wanted a better future in which everyone could live in happiness and security, free to carry on their daily lives. The ratification of the British-Irish Agreement was a democratic act embodying the will of the people. There are always people who have nothing but disdain for democracy. This century has witnessed their dreadful actions throughout the world. The bombing in Omagh witnessed such contempt in our own land. Democracies have a duty to ensure that the will of the people is enforced and that the people are protected from those who have nothing but sordid contempt for them. That is why the measures introduced by our Government and outlined by the Minister are necessary, and I commend the Minister, the Minister of State and their officials for their work.

We must protect ourselves against those whose redundant arguments have been replaced by the instruments of destruction. Our weapons can only be legislative, but they will prevail. We must ensure that the sorrow of Omagh, which we cannot erase, never occurs again and that those responsible for it are brought to justice. Those who planned and planted the bomb in Omagh and those who would try to engage in such evil deeds must be brought to justice speedily.

The people who planted the bomb in Omagh thought they were delivering a mortal blow to the peace process and to the efforts to ensure political progress in the North of Ireland. It is a tribute to the British-Irish Agreement, to its architects, to the people that it has had the opposite effect. The purpose of the Agreement is to overcome the divisions of the past and build a better future. It is a statement of conciliation between all traditions. It is not a peace treaty imposed by a victor upon the vanquished but an understanding between victors, as all sides see that they are winners and that the future of this country lies unequivocally in the hands of its people. Everyone must do his utmost to ensure that a fine and fitting memorial is erected to the victims of the Omagh bombing, and that monument must be the continuation and the consolidation of the peace process in Northern Ireland and the assurance that their relatives and friends will be able to walk down the streets of Omagh free from fear.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The horrific bloodletting that occurred on the main street of Omagh on 15 August was perpetrated by a group of people who claim to be republicans. In their own twisted logic this brigade of fanatics attempt to excuse the carnage they inflicted on the people of Omagh by reference to a noble political principle that has inspired generations of people across the world to struggle for equality, justice and fraternity. This perverted logic cannot go unchallenged. In my contribution today I wish to make that clear.

This year is the bicentenary of the 1798 rebellion. The events, commemorations and analysis that have accompanied the centenary year are developments that are welcome and that have contributed greatly to our understanding of the ideals that inspired the men and women who struggled for freedom and equality 200 years ago. Seventeen ninety-eight is a seminal point in Irish history. It represents the first organised expression of republican principles on the island. It is an insult to that concept of republicanism that those responsible for the slaughter in Omagh would dare to attempt to associate their indescribably evil acts with the political movement first led by Wolfe Tone. Republicanism as articulated by Tone and the other leaders of 1798 is a noble political philosophy inspired by the American and French Revolutions. Despite the selective representations of this era that were subsequently propagated by many historians and analysts, particularly in the last century, the theme of independence and separatism formed only one thread of the philosophy that motivated people from all walks of life and from as far apart as Wexford, Antrim and Meath to join the United Irishmen. The leaders of the 1798 Rebellion were driven by the principles of justice, equality and freedom.

I have always believed that a great injustice was done to the integrity of Irish republicanism when the catch cry of break the link with England came to symbolise the uprising for a later generation, fed on a diatribe of political propaganda.

The principles of justice, equality and freedom have been a key source of inspiration for parties of the left throughout the Continent of Europe and beyond since the time of the French revolution. I have always viewed the Labour Party and its sister parties in the group of European socialists, including the SDLP, as the true inheritors of the republicanism espoused in 1798. This republicanism is non-sectarian, opposed to the use of force for political ends in a democratic society and deeply committed to the abolition of poverty and all forms of discrimination that reinforce inequality between equal citizens in society.

This is the real republicanism that infuses the work of my party and many others in the House. We will not stand by as the term is used to justify a bloody armed campaign. We have opposed that perversion of republicanism in the past when others were what could be best described as sneaking regarders. We oppose it in equally strident measures today.

The Labour Party accepts the need for legislation of this nature, given the threat to democracy and the peace process from small but fanatical terror groups. As a social democrat I take no pleasure in supporting in principle a Bill of this nature. However, I am deeply committed to protecting our democracy against attacks by fascists intent on destroying all that we hold dear. It is against that background and for that reason that the Labour Party supports the Bill.

The threat posed to democracy and the peace process by the so-called Real IRA is substantial. The people in that organisation are deluded fanatics immune to the wishes, hopes and aspirations of the people. They have demonstrated their commitment to perpetrating the most appalling crimes to strike directly at our democracy. It is the duty of the State to respond to that violence with whatever legal means are necessary.

My colleague, Deputy Upton, said the Labour Party believes the Bill can be improved and enhanced in a number of key areas. We will propose amendments on Committee Stage to seek to bring about those changes. I hope the Government will view the amendments in the spirit in which they are put forward and give them proper weight and consideration.

Emergency legislation of the nature proposed by the Government must receive the full attention of the Legislature. It is vital that such potent legislation, which was described by the Taoiseach as draconian, receives the scrutiny of the elected representatives of the people before it is placed on the Statute Book. Some commentators made the point in the past fortnight that the Bill is rushed. However, the Labour Party has taken, and will continue to take, the greatest care in reviewing this legislation. The Dáil is debating the measures in one special sitting. However, we have examined the proposals in detail and teased out the implications of the sections. We have proposed changes which we believe will ensure a constructive debate before the measures are enacted.

We are not rushing to pass the legislation to convey the impression that something is being done. We have given thought to and debated the Bill. We recognise that it needs to be passed with alacrity to ensure that the Garda Síochána can proceed with their investigations against the Real IRA and bring before the courts those responsible for crimes committed over the past year and, in particular, those in this jurisdiction responsible for the carnage at Omagh.

During a debate such as this the fate of groups such as the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and other victims of miscarriage of justice have a particular resonance. Those responsible for the slaughter in Omagh must be brought to justice but in doing so we must not infringe on the constitutional rights and proper legal protection of the citizens of this State. This is an important point to bear in mind and has prompted many of the amendments to which I hope the Government will give full consideration.

I am confident that the Garda Síochána, working in close co-operation with their colleagues in Northern Ireland, will be able to crack down on the men of violence who have brought such terrible tragedy and sadness to the people of this island and beyond. It should be noted that before the bombing at Omagh the Garda had successes against the planned attacks of the so-called Real IRA. With the enhanced temporary powers this Bill will confer on the Garda Síochána, I hope they can continue their important work with even greater alacrity.

As the Leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn, noted in his contribution, we cannot allow the political agenda to be hijacked by fanatics. Despite the horrific carnage at Omagh we are still in the process of constructing a new political future for all the people of this island. Nothing that the men of violence can do must distract us from that historic task.

Public opinion was at one after the Omagh outrage. The people of this island let it be known in clear terms that they would not allow the progress achieved step by step over the past four years to be destroyed by wanton violence. The people of this island have expressed their total commitment to the British-Irish Agreement in referenda North and South. That democratic mandate was reinforced by the public outrage expressed after the August 15 attack. It behoves us as politicians to ensure that demand of the people for a new beginning is brought to fruition and that the forces of fascism opposed to democracy and progress never wrest control from the democratic representatives of the peoples of this island.

Tá áthas orm deis a fháil cúpla focal a rá ar an ábhar brónach, tábhachtach seo. Tá sé suimiúil go bhfuil gach Teachta anseo ar aon fhocal ag déanamh comhbhróin le muintir na hÓmaí, Buncrana agus na Spáinne.

It is very moving that this House is agreed in sending its sympathy to the people of Omagh and Buncrana and to our visitors from Spain on the lives that were lost, those that were ruined and the tragic injuries that were inflicted with which people will have to live not just in their own lives but in memory way beyond the events that took place. I join with all those who extended that sympathy.

In the few minutes I have to speak I want to clarify some points. This legislation will be enormously strengthened, both in terms of focus and clarity, by the acceptance of the six amendments in the name of the Labour Party. I am sure this House would be almost unanimous in that it would prefer to be discussing the ending of legislation of this kind and moving on to the ordinary corpus of legislation for a society at peace, which is where we should be at this time, but the Real IRA has subverted this logic of normalcy that should be governing our operations. It has perpetrated so horrific an act not on a military target but on the civil society that many of us who would prefer to think about the normal course of the law now find ourselves dealing with an extension of special powers which are necessary to handle the threat posed by the Real IRA, both in terms of what they have done and those who might seek to emulate their actions. The legislation is made clear and given focus by the proposed amendments, and the first of these is that the legislation be given a termination point. I differ here with Deputy O'Malley's deeply held view that the legislation should run beyond the year 2000. I do not consider this a normal action but an action in a category of horror far greater than the actions usually perpetrated against the State. There is a logic for including a termination point.

When I recommended to the Government of the day that the order under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act be ended, an order which related to similar legislation, it was suggested in the debate that the order continued automatically unless it was rescinded by a motion of both Houses of the Oireachtas. That was not satisfactory, and it gives more cogency to the arguments being made for this legislation if one says that the events were extraordinary, that the legislation is extraordinary and that we are discussing legislation we should not otherwise be discussing.

There is a huge difference between an inbuilt termination point and legislation that goes out of existence because we hope the circumstances that caused it will go out of existence. Building in a case for review or renewal is not the same thing in legislation, and I speak from the experience of dealing with the order on removing section 31. My thinking at that time was that I trusted the public and the RTÉ authority. It was not to reward one group or another, and I pay tribute to those who took the opportunity of moving their activities firmly away from violence into the path of political dialogue and who have made such good use of it.

Let us be clear that what happened in Omagh was a deliberate attempt to disrupt that process and to destroy the logic being used by those who have moved into the political framework.

It is better to be honest in the processing of legislation. In relation to emergency legislation, not just in Ireland but in other countries, there is always the difficulty of its operation. By its nature it is outside the ordinary process even though guarantees to the citizen remain. It is especially important that video recording of suspects be made. The other amendments are equally important. They deal with the question of association, and I cannot stress how bad the parallels in legislation are for guilt by association. It was argued by former US President Richard Nixon before the McCarthy hearings in America. I strongly oppose this.

With these amendments in place, the legislation will be focused and justified. A termination date should be specified. The reason one would have to support the legislation in principle would be that any version of civil rights, civil liberties or human rights are not absolute personal civil liberties but they include a primary set of rights that attach to the society and to its safety, operation and the practice of its liberty.

May I share my time with Deputies Wade and Kirk?

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I join other Members in remembering the victims of the terrible tragedy of

Omagh. My county of Donegal has been relatively free from the troubles over the past number of years but, unfortunately, on this occasion it lost five members of the community, which included two Spanish visitors.

This is a time of new hope. The statement from Sinn Féin yesterday represents a highly significant and historic turning point in the painful chronicle of conflict and tragedy that has blighted the politics of this island for so many years. I want to look to the future. It is a time of new and historically unprecedented opportunity. We all have a duty to the present generation and to posterity to seize that opportunity and to do everything in our power as politicians to bring the golden promise of these days to fulfilment.

It is, however, also a profoundly sensitive time, a time when ill chosen words or ill timed statements can cloud and darken the climate of goodwill that is so essential if we are to have a new beginning. That is why I was somewhat disappointed by the tone of the comments of the Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy John Bruton, on television yesterday and in Dáil Éireann today. At a time so sensitive, following the clear and most unambiguous Sinn Féin statement to date that the war is over and after David Trimble has issued a courageous invitation to all party leaders to come together, I ask in what direction the Leader of Fine Gael is leading his party. I do not want to be confrontational today but do all his colleagues in the Fine Gael Party endorse the line he pursued in his recent television interview and in his Dáil speech? I remind him of the worldwide revulsion which Dr. Paisley, Mr. Peter Robinson and their party aroused when they held a nauseating press conference on the streets of Omagh the day after the bomb. The people of this island, particularly the people of the North, are craving for peace and are looking to us for hope and for the fulfilment of their dreams.

Deputy De Rossa said in the Dáil today that words are the lifeblood of politics. I totally agree. Words can so often be triggers and detonators. In this conflict worldwide, words have often been as lethal as the bomb and the bullet. I urge all commentators and interviewers in the media to take heed of this fact. In these situations, there is something far more important than good sound bites or high TAM ratings at stake. What is at stake for the communities concerned is literally life or death. I appreciate presenters have a very difficult job to do and I know most of them are conscious of the responsibilities involved. I ask them, some in particular, to keep in mind the sensitivities of the fraught and delicate situations that arise on the difficult road to agreement and peace. Provocative questioning on issues like decommissioning and condemnation can at the wrong time and in the wrong atmosphere serve no positive purpose and instead stir up old aggravations. They can generate an atmosphere which throws the whole situation back to where it was months ago.

The answer to decommissioning is simple. It has been left to a special international representative body under General de Chastelain with special responsibilities and a timeframe in which it must work. The answer to the decommissioning question is to be found on 22 May 2000, as agreed in the British-Irish Agreement.

I ask politicians, commentators and journalists to remember the words of the Rev. Meyers at the funeral of Mrs. Annie McCoombe, the last victim of the Omagh bombing to be buried. The Rev. Meyers pointed out that the people and the communities had come together as one following this dreadful tragedy. They have mingled in all the different churches as never before. His heartfelt plea was that Annie McCoombe should be the last victim to be buried in this manner. He continued much along the same lines by urging politicians to come together and put flesh on the bones of the dreams and hopes of all the people of this island.

I ask those who may still harbour thoughts of violence to revisit the carnage and grief of Omagh and to look at the havoc and bereavement of those days in the context of the noble words of the Proclamation which is to be found in the GPO: "We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine".

We fervently hope the terrible event in Omagh will be the last of its kind and that it will prove to be a decisive watershed and turning point in our history. A new and better way forward has been agreed and massively endorsed by the people, North and South. In the spirit of that Agreement we look forward to a new era of co-operation in which we can work together to develop the great potential of the wonderful island we are privileged to share. That is what this legislation is about and what the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is trying to do.

It is difficult to know what to say at times like this. There is always the worry that the few words we use will never be enough to describe our sense of shock, sorrow and revulsion. There have been many sad occasions but none can match the loss of 28 people in one incident. Many in Limerick were driven to tears when the full extent of the carnage became apparent. Our thoughts must be with the people of Omagh, with those who have lost a son or daughter, a mother or father, husband or wife. We must think of those who will bear the physical reminders of this brutal act for the rest of their lives, those who have lost limbs and will never walk again. I also extend my deepest sympathy to the two Spanish families who have lost loved ones, taken from them in this murderous act.

We should endeavour to put politics aside and remember that we were elected to this House as representatives of the ordinary people, the same people who brought their children to Omagh to buy new school uniforms or who went to Omagh to meet their friends for a quiet pint on a Saturday afternoon, never to return. We must put their memory above all else in this debate and strive to avoid engaging in political point scoring which has been indulged in recent weeks. The importance of adopting a bipartisan approach was impressed on me recently as I listened to a radio interview in which a bereaved family member singled out a particular Opposition leader for criticism and said that while he and his family were going through the worst crisis of their lives, like many others in Omagh and Buncrana, certain individuals viewed their situation as an opportunity to score points against their political opponents. This is regrettable and the Deputy concerned should be ashamed. If we are to show a degree of humanity and truly represent those who elected us we must avoid engaging in point scoring and remember the human element of this tragedy.

While the reintroduction of internment is not being considered, it has not been ruled out. I caution against availing of this option. Should the Government consider it necessary to pursue this option I urge it to proceed with caution. It is important that the Government explains clearly, especially to the Irish-American community, why this option is not being used. I have no doubt that, if internment was reintroduced, the chorus boys, fund-raisers and apologists for the murderers, such as Martin Galvin in the United States, would waste no time in turning these butchers into martyrs. We cannot afford to take the risk of letting these people profit from the death of 28 innocent people.

To be effective, the proposals put before the House must be pursued and enforced with full vigour and determination. We must also ensure these people's lives are made unbearable so that they cannot walk down a street without meeting members of the Special Branch or open their doors without having members of the Garda waiting for them. The possible option of proscribing the Thirty-two County Sovereignty Committee must also be considered because there is no difference between it and the group which calls itself the Real IRA.

We must never forget that this tragedy is about 28 innocent people whose lives were brutally cut short, about families who will never again see their loved ones and about people who will be physically scarred for life. I extend my sympathies and those of the people of Limerick.

I join with other speakers in extending my sympathy to all those in Omagh who have been bereaved or badly injured and maimed for life as a result of this appalling tragedy. I had the opportunity to attend a number of funerals in the aftermath and one had to have been there to really appreciate the level of grief and sorrow which has been visited upon the mid-Tyrone town. Today is an opportunity to congratulate the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, on their handling of this tragedy.

The British-Irish Agreement has been supported by the vast majority of right thinking people on this island. A small minority of people think they can overturn the Agreement by visiting atrocious bombing incidents on the people of the North. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, parts of my constituency of Louth attracted some negative publicity. I hope the peace vigil organised in Dundalk in the days immediately following will go a long way towards showing the world where the people of the locality stand as regards this incident.

As chairman of the economic sub-committee of the British-Irish Parliamentary Group, we had an opportunity to meet Omagh District Council just a short few weeks prior to the bombing. I was particularly impressed at the willingness to promote the cross-community working relationship in Omagh. I hope it can be restored and built upon as part of the ongoing process of the Agreement.

It is regrettable that such draconian legislation must be introduced but it is necessary to deal with a small group of mindless fanatics intent on overturning the British-Irish Agreement. I welcome yesterday's statement by the President of Sinn Féin which clearly indicates its commitment to the furtherance of the Agreement. I hope it will act as a platform for the acceleration of the process of cross-community development.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Dukes, McGinley and Kenny.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Over the past 30 years we have witnessed many atrocities emanating from the difficulties and troubles in Northern Ireland. No words can describe the degree to which we are revolted by what happened in Omagh on 15 August. No one can justify on any grounds the carnage which took place. What makes this atrocity different from all other atrocities which took place over the past 30 years? On television and in newspapers we have seen the continuous litany of deaths from bombings, shootings, maimings and knee-cappings, so can we view the Omagh tragedy in a different light? The most important fact which sets it apart is that it is a direct challenge to the people as it came directly after they gave their approval to the British-Irish Agreement in referenda.

The Omagh bomb laid down a challenge to the Irish people. If the perpetrators ever ask themselves questions, they must ask themselves whether they thought they could take on the Irish people? The difference is that in some parts of the country almost 100 per cent of people gave their approval to the British-Irish Agreement. However, there were still those who thought they could set it aside, but they cannot do so. Hopefully the perpetrators will learn a lesson from this unfortunate, terrible and heinous act and it will serve to imbue within all of us a sense of duty and direction, to look to the future and to take on the challenge issued to the Irish people on that day. I hope this is the last time this House has to react to such an atrocity. I have some minor reservations about this legislation, but I hope it will be successful in dealing with the problem.

I am in some discord with other Members on this Bill. We all have one objective — to see the Omagh and Ballymoney murderers behind bars as quickly as possible. The objective of the British-Irish Agreement was to establish and embed the rule of law in Northern Ireland as it is in the Republic. This Bill is a departure from what we have always considered the rule of law. That was recognised by the Taoiseach this morning when he rightly admitted that the Bill introduces further restrictions on freedom. Other Government spokespersons have rightly characterised the measures as draconian. Are these measures necessary? I do not believe we have been shown the necessity for them. To the extent that we depart from the rule of law we begin to act more like the terrorists we wish to put behind bars. They do not recognise any rule of law. The further we depart from the rule of law as we understand it, the more like the terrorists we become. We should only do so after careful consideration.

Sections 2 and 4 introduce a new basis on which we will bring people before the courts — their associations. What are these associations? They are not defined in the Bill. No guidance is given to the courts or the Garda Síochána on what associations are concerned. It could be a second cousin twice removed or members of one's GAA or hill walking club. Those are associations and the Minister will have to explain in more detail what he means by the word "associations".

Section 6 creates a new offence of directing the operations of a terrorist organisation — not just membership, but directing the operations — but it does not define what is meant by "directing". What time will gardaí have if they bring people before the courts charged with directing the activities of a proscribed organisation?

Sections 7 and 8 introduce a major departure in our legislation in that they provide for defences that effectively reverse the burden of proof on the defendant. Section 7 deals with the possession of articles, by which the Bill seems to mean fertilisers and fuel oils that could be used in making home made bombs. Those are the new things, the possession of which will be an offence under the proposed legislation. The other innovation in that section is that these things are possessed in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion they will be used in the commission of a crime. The defence has to show the person in question has these things for some other purpose — that is the reversal of the burden of proof. If that is all the section sets out to do, I wonder why we need it because possession of explosives or possession of firearms is already an offence, under the legislation referred to specifically in subsection (1) of that section.

Section 8 deals with the collection of information. It gives us no idea what kind of information is in question, how much of it a person would need to have, how a person would have had to collect it or what they were going to do with it to provide the grounds for a charge leading to indictment on an offence under the Bill. There is no indication, no guidance for the Garda or the courts on how they are to treat this collection of information.

Section 9 deals with the possession of information and makes the possession of certain information an offence. It makes the withholding of information an offence. We can see that clearly. How will the Garda or any prosecutor prove that somebody possessed a given kind of information, or if that person possessed the information whether he or she understood what it meant or if he or she understood what it meant what they were going to do with it that would help unidentified persons, unknown to the Garda, to carry out certain kinds of crime including, perhaps, the forcible detention of unknown and unidentified people? That is not legislation. That is the provision of a belt, a pair of braces and safety pins for a pair of trousers that we do not even know we need. That is not the way to write legislation. We are inserting a series of provisions which run a serious risk of being unworkable.

Earlier Deputy O'Malley, who opposed a modest provision I fought through the House in 1986-87 on extradition — opposed also by Members opposite — recalled one provision of the 1972 Act which was controversial at the time which has been used only once in the 26 years since it was enacted. Nobody can persuade me, not even Deputy O'Malley for all his eloquence, that a provision that has been availed of once in 26 years is worth having on the Statute Book and that what has been achieved could not have been achieved by other means.

What the Minister wants to achieve will be achieved by the other means he mentioned earlier: enhancing police operational capacity on both sides of the Border and the allocation of additional resources to the Garda to counter terrorists. That should be the approach rather than this badly drafted and badly thought out Bill.

In parliamentary terms this is an historic day. Two parliaments are meeting simultaneously to enact similar legislation with the aim of preventing a recurrence of the Omagh tragedy. It is sad it took such a shocking atrocity to alert us to the threat to our democracies and the need to protect the democratic decision of the people, North and South, by the enactment of this necessary legislation. Omagh, on 15 August, will go down in the annals of Irish history as the location and date of one of the most brutal and savage atrocities perpetrated in Ireland in the 20th century. In the past 30 years we have had a long and sad litany of bombings and killings but the Omagh bombing was different. It was a brutal and indiscriminate attack on an entire community. It did not differentiate between Catholic or Protestant, Unionist or Nationalist, adult or child, or even nationality. On a busy Saturday afternoon the bomb was placed at a location which I know as well as my own back yard. The misleading directions given regarding its location were designed to inflict the maximum injury and death.

There have always been close associations between Donegal and Tyrone. Strabane and Omagh are frequented by hundreds of people from Donegal on a daily and weekly basis for shopping expeditions and other purposes. Saturday 15 August was no exception. Three young Donegal boys lost their tender lives in the awful atrocity. Oran Doherty, little more than an infant, was only eight years of age. James Barker was only 12 years of age. His family moved to Buncrana less than one year ago as they felt it was a safer place than England to rear their children. Seán McLaughlin and his Spanish friend, Fernando Brasco, also 12 years of age, and his teacher, Rocio Abad, aged 23 years, also lost their lives. It is a sad and tragic litany of carnage. We also remember the many friends who suffered terrible injuries and the families throughout Tyrone and Spain who have been bereaved as a result of the insane act of these evil people.

The one ray of hope resulting from the Omagh atrocity and the needless sacrifice of so many lives is the countrywide and worldwide revulsion at this insane act of terror. We have all been united as never before in our grief. Never again must we tolerate the use of violence to achieve a political goal. The legislation we are enacting is designed to crush the people and organisation responsible for this mindless atrocity. I and my party have no hesitation in fully supporting the measures in the Bill.

The names and faces of those murdered in Omagh were remembered in the Chamber during the minute's silence which was a political homage to those murdered on that fateful day, as were the names and faces of many of the 3,000 people murdered in many circumstances over the past 30 years.

I will raise a number of questions on Committee Stage — I do not have time to do so now. The Taoiseach referred to the recall of the Dáil as being necessary to deal with the people involved with the Real IRA which has not been proscribed. My understanding is that legislation passed by the House does not apply to a select band of individuals, or 20 or 30 murderers in this case, but across the board. This must be spelled out in the legislation — otherwise we do not know the purpose of what the Minister is introducing.

The Taoiseach said "these people are about to learn a lesson that will teach them to respect the strength of Irish democracy". The House was recalled from its summer recess to pass the legislation which will enable the authorities deal with the perpetrators of the Omagh bombing so that such an event can never again happen. We very strongly support this objective. However, this is very broad legislation and I understand it applies across the board. What is the difference between one hundredweight of semtex found in a field owned by a former member of the Provisional IRA, which is now on ceasefire, and one hundredweight of semtex found in a field owned by a member of the Real IRA which is not yet proscribed and is not on ceasefire?

The Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, questioned the words used by Deputy Bruton, the Leader of Fine Gael. Deputy Bruton has never had a problem with the consequences of speaking the truth. There is a contradiction between the army council of the IRA saying it will never decommission and the political representatives of the movement, which signed on for the British-Irish Agreement, saying it will work for the Agreement in the interests of peace and constitutional democracy throughout the island.

I hope the window dressing in terms of the Sinn Féin statement, which has made it look better than it is, is not because of the visit this week of the US President, a good friend of Ireland, in an effort to show he has not been sold a lame duck.

I wish to share time with Deputies Fox, Byrne and Eoin Ryan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I take this opportunity to join other Deputies in expressing my sympathy to all those affected by the Omagh bombing. Indeed it is difficult to find words to express how we all feel about what has happened.

This atrocity has shocked not just Ireland but the world. President Clinton's visit to Omagh later this week will be a fitting symbol of the sympathy which people throughout the world have expressed for the victims of the bombing, their relatives and friends.

I also express the solidarity which we all feel with those affected by this terrible crime. Coming as I do from Dundalk, the place where I was born and bred and which itself experienced bombing in the early 1970s, I know how long it takes for the scars to heal and we must do all we can to support those affected by the bombing and, most of all, ensure that it never happens again. The people of Louth have shown how they feel. Over 12,000 people gathered in Dundalk after the bombing in a vigil to express their sympathy and solidarity. I thank the organisers of that vigil and congratulate the people of the area for their magnificent response.

I welcome the measures which are proposed in this legislation. It is unfortunate in a democracy that we have to take these tough measures but they are needed. This Government and the party I represent have never baulked at taking tough measures in the past, nor will we do so in the future if the necessity arises. I support and compliment the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice on the way in which they have handled this. We must, as the Taoiseach said, crush the people who are involved in this type of atrocity. I echo the Taoiseach's appeal today to young people not to get involved in violent activity, not to be used by the men and women of violence who refuse to accept the democratically expressed views of the vast majority of our people, North and South. These people will use them and will also ensure for their own ends that their own fingerprints are not on any horrific deed. I condemn the armchair generals who corrupt impressionable young people in our community.

Let us not forget that the British-Irish Agreement was overwhelmingly supported by the people of our island — by 94 per cent of voters in this jurisdiction. Despite this a handful of unelected and unrepresentative people have continued to ignore the democratic wishes of the people and to engage in heinous crimes. This has led not only to this Bill but has meant that it has not been possible to remove security installations in Border areas to the extent that we would all like. These people should take that into account. They represent nobody but themselves. They besmirch the aims and ideals of true republicans like Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen. There must be no haven for these people. We do not want them on our island or in our community.

The call of the people of Omagh after the bomb was for the politicians to get on with it. We cannot be delayed in doing so. Together the British and Irish Governments have worked to produce a coherent package of measures which have been introduced in emergency session in this House and simultaneously in the House of Commons and will be enacted into law, hopefully with the required effect.

All sections of our community, with the exception of a handful of unrepresentative extremists, have accepted that violence is over for good. Every single member of this community must do all that they can to ensure that those extremists are brought to justice. As politicians, we have a duty both to provide moral leadership to the community and to provide the appropriate legislation and resources for our security forces. This legislation, and its equivalent in the House of Commons, will help to ensure that this type of atrocity will never happen again. I commend the legislation to the House. I accept that some people have reservations about it but I have full confidence in our security forces on this side of the Border and in our Judiciary to ensure that this legislation is properly and wisely implemented.

: I wish to add my voice to the expressions of sympathy to the families of the victims of the Omagh bomb. Their lives have been torn apart as a result of a cowardly act which could never have achieved anything except death, destruction and grief. The only crime these victims committed was to be shopping in a busy town on a Saturday as we all do from time to time.

The British-Irish Agreement was not easily arrived at. It took hard work and political courage for politicians to sit down opposite those they perceived as enemies and work out an agreement which would put an end to the ways of violence. None of us will ever know what occurred behind the scenes but we must be very grateful agreement was reached. We assumed and hoped, in vain, that we would never again witness the violence of the past 30 years.

The ordinary people of the Republic and of Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to endorse this Agreement in the hope of a normal future. By doing so, they hoped to declare their wish for peace to the world. The people who carried out the Omagh atrocity did not act on behalf of anybody but themselves, they did not have a mandate from anybody and they must now live with themselves. I hope the measures being introduced here today will be effective in combating the ruthless groups which seek to destroy peace through violence.

A great deal of concern has been expressed in recent days about human rights and the speed with which this legislation is being introduced. This legislation is necessary and will assist in dealing with the ruthless murderers responsible for Omagh. The Real IRA did not have any regard for human rights or life on 15 August. This legislation will not make any of us feel better about ourselves or about what happened to the community in Omagh but it will hopefully give us the power to deal with these terrorists without the kid gloves and restrictions of the past.

My initial reaction on hearing the news of the Omagh bombing was one of utter horror followed by great anger. How could people exist who were capable of perpetrating such an atrocity and wreaking such havoc and grief on so many lives? Many people in Wexford and elsewhere have since expressed their anger and outrage to me.

It is time for the communities in which these criminals live to stop harbouring them. It is regrettable this House should be obliged to convene a special sitting — a simultaneous sitting has been convened in the House of Commons — in such tragic circumstances. It is important to stress that today's business is not about vengeance. The current situation demands measures which will further concentrate our minds and efforts. The measures introduced by Dáil Éireann in the aftermath of the Veronica Guerin murder were very successful and a similar response is appropriate now. Let us be clear on the simple fact that those who committed the atrocity at Omagh pose a danger to our society. The historic Agreement arrived at on Good Friday is the way forward. I was very pleased to hear the statement by Gerry Adams yesterday as it signified a historic step forward for Sinn Féin and Irish republicanism. Violence is now a thing of the past.

We must recognise the work carried out by the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and the US President during the past year which ensured every effort was made to strengthen and nourish the peace process. Those efforts must be applauded. It would also be appropriate to recognise the efforts made by the Northern Secretary, Dr. Mo Mowlam, the US ambassador, Jean Kennedy Smith and the British ambassador, Veronica Sutherland.

During the past year, I have spoken at numerous 1798 commemoration ceremonies in Wexford. To honour the work of the United Irishmen we should build a society based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. That is what the peace process is about and it is the prize which necessitates the measures currently before us. These proposed measures have been carefully crafted and I am convinced they are overwhelmingly endorsed by the people on this island who gave their verdict so clearly on the Agreement. We have come too far in reaching a settlement to the conflict which has endured in these islands for so many generations to allow the actions of a tiny minority to thwart us at this critical juncture. I fully support the measures before the House.

Like others, I too condemn the Omagh bomb which was an outrageous act of violence and I express my sympathy to the families and friends of those who were killed and injured. It is hard for any of us to imagine how difficult it must be for victims and people from the area to try to rebuild their lives and return to some kind of normality. Like other Members I cannot comprehend the pain and anguish these families have suffered at the loss of members of their family and children. Unfortunately, desperate men do desperate things and these people are desperate. Election results on this island did not suit their political aims. I am sure they were shocked at the massive turnout and support for the peace process and the demand for change in the direction this island was taking.

I congratulate the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on the swift and decisive action they have taken. It is with much sadness that I support this tough legislation. It is not something any of us thought we would have to do because we all felt that a new chapter had been opened on this island and that we were moving forward. I recall the positive speeches made when we debated the British-Irish Agreement and various election results in this House. There was a great sense of a new beginning and then, sadly, we had another massive atrocity.

I am delighted this legislation will be reviewed next year as there is great concern about it. We have to enact this Bill because of this kind of act and the fact that some people do not want to accept the views of the vast majority of people on this island. As legislators we have a responsibility to protect people and that is what this Bill will do. It is not — as many people have said — something that we all wanted but, unfortunately, we are being forced to do it. I support the legislation and I congratulate the Taoiseach, the Minister and the Government on taking this swift and necessary action. If it is as successful as the legislation we enacted in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin then it will be a huge success and these atrocities will be at an end once and for all.

I am a native of County Tyrone and Omagh is my county town. My wife was born and reared in Omagh and her relatives still live there; some are in business and others are in the Church. Thankfully, none of them was injured or murdered. The Omagh bombing was an abomination. It was a deliberately barbarous act carried out by barbarians.

Members of the Fine Gael Party will recall a meeting of the parliamentary party some months ago when I recounted a conversation I had had with a traditional republican about what would happen if the peace process failed. I explained to him there was no alternative to the peace process but he replied, "We have been called terrorists. If the Agreement collapses we will go back to being real terrorists". That meant putting the civilian population, including women and children, in the front line. I am sorry that I was correct in my prediction of what might happen in those circumstances.

We have had the backlash. The outrage and anger in republican heartlands has been so great there is a good chance that Omagh will be the last of these abominations, in Northern Ireland at least. There are republican extremists who will not see this as the last act and are perhaps thinking of further activity beyond the shores of this island, particularly in Britain. Part of the reason we are here today is to ensure these madmen are stopped.

Omagh is a symbol of the futility of violence over the years. The reaction to that abomination is important as a symbol and as a warning to people of how things could develop. However, the referenda of 22 May last are far more important in political terms. It is more than 20 years since I was part of the SDLP leadership which decided to press for joint referenda, North and South. That decision was taken in 1975 or 1976. The results of the recent referenda have given a greater political and moral authority to the British-Irish Agreement and the institutions created, and to be created, under it than any institutions have ever had on this island. They have a greater political and moral authority than in 1920-21 when the Dáil was established, than the 1937 Constitution when the people of the North were not consulted and there was a relatively close majority in the South, and than the Sunningdale institutions which collapsed in 1974. The joint referenda result was a watershed. It may be that from the vantage point of history the joint referenda will turn out to be the most significant political development in 20th century Irish politics.

There has been criticism of Deputy John Bruton. I ask the Government to consider that perhaps Deputy Bruton was being helpful. As a result of his experience in Government, he knows there are certain questions Governments cannot ask and points it cannot make in particular circumstances. Someone has to ask those questions and make those points. Challenging Sinn Féin to state its support for the referenda result as an exercise in self-determination which eclipsed the 1918 election was valid and useful. It is dishonest of Sinn Féin not to reply to that challenge. To use a word used by Pat Doherty, one of its leaders, on one occasion, its position on this issue could be described as "devious".

The people, given a free choice, gave this House and the Government elected by this House a free hand to use whatever powers we feel are necessary to implement the will of the people. We have the political and moral authority to put out of business, by whatever means necessary, those who try to usurp our function. The question is not whether we have the authority to do it, which we have, but by what means we will do it.

I stood on the courthouse steps in Omagh on the Saturday after the dreadful bombing. I recalled taking part in civil rights marches through the street where the bombing occurred. I also remembered my opposition to the Northern Ireland Special Powers Acts. The Minister for

Justice in South Africa said at the time that he would give up all the legislation in South Africa in exchange for one section of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Acts. I remembered the disaster of internment and many other measures which were introduced in what was described as the politics of the last atrocity.

With my background — Deputy Eoin Ryan expressed many of my sentiments — I can only be uncomfortable with what the Government has described as "draconian legislation". However, in considering and agonising about these matters, I have been helped enormously by a recent letter toThe Irish Times from Fred Heatley of Belfast. Like me, Fred Heatley was a founder member of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. He marched with me in Omagh, Dungannon and other places in Northern Ireland for one of the principal aims of NICRA, the abolition of the Northern Ireland Special Powers Acts which provided for internment without trial. Mr. Heatley wrote:

I was on holiday in Dublin when news came of the butchery and my immediate reactions were of horror and a damnation to all those associated with such a deed. Returning home, those feelings have eased — a little — to be replaced with resignation to the fact that if the normal processes of law are inadequate to deal with the quasi-political fanatics in our society, then stronger methods have to be adopted to curb them.

The safeguarding of human life and the prevention of unnecessary suffering to all people are the most basic rights of all, and those who would deprive us of either have to face the consequences. If internment, with obvious legal protections, has again to be brought into play, this is one individual who will not raise a voice in opposition. It goes against every fibre in my being to state that, as the beliefs of a lifetime are being cast aside. But there must be no repetitions of Omagh and the so many brutal carnages of the past 30-odd years. The majority of the people on this island, on both sides of the Border, have voted for peace and their democratic wish has to be obeyed.

I come from the same background as Fred Heatley and I agree with his sentiments.

The way forward is the full and speedy implementation of the British-Irish Agreement. Unfortunately, as a result of the ruthless savages with whom we must contend, security measures are required which will effectively quarantine them. That is an unfortunate fact and it is why I will support this legislation.

Words fail to describe the horror everybody felt when they heard about the Omagh bombing. I was out of the country when it occurred and I never before experienced such feelings of revulsion. It is difficult to find words to describe how horrible it was.

I was on the street where the explosion occurred less than a week previously with my wife and children. To think that somebody would place a bomb on that street knowing the obvious outcome is hard to accept or understand. The fact that the House is meeting in special session to pass this legislation is a necessary response to this undiluted fascism. There are people who think they have the right to be fascists, to form terrorist organisations and to bomb and maim the rest of us. They have received succour, support and empathy from those whom the late John Kelly called the sneaking regarders, some of whom were in this House. These people are fascists although they are backslapped and presented as so called republicans. They are undiluted fascists and it is up to us, as democrats, to defend the common good. I would prefer if we did not have such legislation as this but if these or stronger measures are necessary the Government of the day will have the support of this party in putting them in place. There can be no tolerance for fascism. The sneaking regarders and public house republicans who have allowed this cancer to grow in our society have a lot on their consciences.

I would be very concerned if certain sections of this Bill became part of the general corpus of legislation. I put these concerns on the record. First, I urge the Minister to reduce the timescale for the operation of the legislation. A period of 12 or 18 months would be more appropriate than the two and a half years which he proposes. The Opposition will be happy to renew this legislation in 12 months if it is still necessary and if we are still in Opposition. The question of the time for renewing the legislation should be brought before the House and I think two and a half years is too long. I hope by then we will have seen the beginning of the end.

Second, I am concerned about the provision which allows newspaper reports which are not denied to be used as evidence. I know this is a repetition of a section of the Offences against the State Act, 1972 but I do not understand why the Minister feels it necessary to repeat a provision which is already made. If there is a change of wording I hope the Minister will point it out but I do not see the necessity for this measure. I would prefer if it were not in the 1972 Act although it may have been necessary over the years.

I join with others in paying tribute to the Garda and the security forces. For many years they have put their lives on the line. We live in a democracy which has checks and balances. Under our Constitution we have courts, an Executive, a Parliament and other organs of the State, one of which is the Garda Síochána. The Garda must exercise its duty independently. We must ensure that where there is independence there is accountability. When we give the Garda Síochána sweeping powers to deal with drug pushers and fascists we must be careful to demand accountability and we must examine this question. I am not suggesting that this matter needs to be addressed on this occasion but this should be done in a calmer atmosphere in the new session.

Fine Gael sees the need for this legislation and strongly supports it in these circumstances.

I join other colleagues who have expressed their revulsion at the obscenity that occurred at Omagh and at an equal obscenity that occurred when three children were burned to death a few weeks earlier, arising out of sectarian hatred. There is a lot of sectarianism and naked bigotry still alive and well in Northern Ireland. It is something that will have to be dealt with in a singular way in the context of the new future we are putting together in the form of new institutions.

I welcome the expressions of support from all Members of the House at the range of provisions we are putting in place. I congratulate the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and his officials for the work they have put into bringing these provisions before the House. It is the Government's job to bring forward provisions but there is also a huge responsibility on all Members of the House to scrutinise that legislation to ensure it is not needlessly vulnerable to challenge and that it is robust and fit for the purpose for which it is intended.

While the tragedy of Omagh broke our hearts and the hearts of thousands of people around the island, it united us in a new and firm resolution that this would be the last atrocity that would take place under the guise of politically motivated violence. Even at that time of despair it was amazing to hear from the injured victims that they were charging us with the responsibility, as politicians north and south of the Border, to get on with the work of putting in place the new institutions north, south, east and west, which provide the best way forward for the people of the island.

The Bill is an unequivocal statement of our resolute determination to stamp out, once and for all, the people who are hanging on to the old ideology and the misguided tradition of physical force as a way of achieving political aspirations. In the wake of the British-Irish Agreement that tradition of physical force has been absolutely rejected by the people North and South. People had a long time to deliberate on the provisions of the Agreement. There was a plentiful and open democratic debate in Northern Ireland during the Assembly elections and, North and South, during the two referenda. We grappled with those dilemmas, took courage and said we would vote for the new Agreement, even though it is painful in many aspects. We said we would work together in a new partnership and dispensation on the island.

There has been plenty of talk — it is quite proper and I would not seek to minimise it in any way — expressing views on the harshness of this legislation and the need to protect civil liberties. It is the purpose of the House and the overriding obligation of the Opposition to scrutinise this legislation. Both parties in Government have been careful to scrutinise the amendments that have been tabled and have taken the best legal advice. Our job as Ministers is to protect our citizens and, ultimately, that is about balancing rights. We have decided that this legislation, though harsh, is required to deal with this dissident rump which is trying to flout the democratically expressed will of the people.

There are those who say that repressive legislation has never worked, but that is nonsense. The Offences against the State Act, as amended since 1939, has provided a bulwark against terrorism and subversion. It has saved the lives of countless people and has provided a basis upon which a political evolution has arisen so that the republican movement has come around to the view that it could not bomb a million Protestants into a united Ireland. It came around to that view after a long period of being suppressed. For that reason I say to those people who argue that this sort of legislation is counterproductive that it works, it has worked and it will work in the future to finish off for good those people who are determined not only to attack British forces but to attack civilians living on this island, citizens of this country going about their business, with no support from the Irish people.

There is another aspect to which I want to refer, that is the attitude of some commentators and, indeed, politicians who say that this sort of legislation does not work or that it makes the situation worse. We are determined on this side of the House and I am grateful for the support of other Members who have spoken in support of the legislation. We must take a stand once and for all against the people who have provided safe houses, the sneaking regarders, and those who have been ambivalent about the sacred tradition of physical force. It is important that at this critical stage in the peace process the whole of Ireland democratically unites to say once and for all that physical force is finished, it has no support and the way forward is the one which has been mapped out and blueprinted by the British-Irish Agreement.

I thank Deputies for the manner in which they have approached this debate. The House is broadly supportive of the measures proposed by the Government in the Bill. Having said that, I recognise equally that clearly there are also issues of concern to a number of Deputies and parties and I hope to be in a position to deal with those in greater detail on Committee Stage.

I am conscious of the difficulties involved in considering legislation of this nature in circumstances where it has been necessary to recall the Dáil in the aftermath of an atrocity such as that at Omagh. There are those who would say that we should not legislate in such circumstances, but both the Government and the House would be failing in their collective duty were they not to respond to the challenge which the perpetrators of the atrocity at Omagh have thrown down. This Bill represents a package of carefully considered and balanced measures which the Government believes would improve the capacity of the State to counter those who would seek to undermine the British-Irish Agreement through violence. I want to deal with some of the principal points which have been raised in the debate. I will of course be happy to return to these and any other points raised on Committee Stage.

I am disappointed at the suggestion, which is without any supporting evidence of which I am aware, from some quarters that the tragic events of Omagh were in some sense the result of a security lapse or failure on the part of the security forces here or outside of this jurisdiction or perhaps both. Anybody with any knowledge of these organisations and their capacities will be aware that there can be no absolute guarantees that all their activities and schemes will be thwarted. If there were such guarantees, the people of this island would not have had to endure terrorist violence over a period of 30 years. What the security forces, both here and in Northern Ireland, are required to deal with are organisations which of their nature are secretive of their activities and of course which ruthlessly enforce their own code of secrecy.

With regard to the activities of the so-called Real IRA, both the Garda and the RUC have already had significant successes in dealing with this group and in preventing attacks on both sides of the Border. In the context of the Garda in this jurisdiction, I need only to point to the seizures of 1.5 tonnes of homemade explosives at Howth in January, a car bomb with 600 pounds of home-made explosives at Hackballs Cross in March, a further bomb in Dundalk later that month, the car bomb intercepted at Dún Laoghaire port in April and the interception of two car bombs near the Border at Dundalk in May. The Garda were also successful in preventing the attempted armed robbery of cash in transit at Ashford in May and provided information leading to the arrest of a number of persons in London arising from the seizure of incendiary devices there. Arising from those successes, 15 persons have been charged and are awaiting trial before the Special Criminal Court in connection with offences involving the Real IRA.

What is also clear from those successes and other security force successes over the past 30 years is that organisations who engage in terrorist activity are prepared to employ people whose connections and associations have hitherto either been of minor concern to the Garda or may not previously have been brought to their notice. The godfathers of the organisation will ensure their hands remain clean when it comes to the actual mounting of attacks. The job of tackling organisations like this is far from simple.

It cannot be assumed — I refer to suggestions by some Opposition Deputies — that methods employed by the Garda to tackle one category of crime or type of criminal would automatically prove successful in the case of terrorists. We have to be guided by professional Garda assessments as to the best methods to be employed. I have discussed the matter with senior gardaí and it appears that some of the proposals on what might appear to be superior ways of dealing with terrorist groupings simply would not succeed. One of the most serious concerns I have about suggestions that the Garda may have followed less than optimum methods in the case of the so-called Real IRA is that, however unintentional it may be — I believe it must be unintentional — it points the finger at those who put their lives on the line to prevent terrorist attacks and away from those who commit them. We must, therefore, try to get away from suggestions which can only serve to shift the focus from those who have committed atrocities. If the investigation of any crime demonstrates a clear security lapse that has to be dealt with, but to speculate about such a lapse in the absence of any evidence is not only distinctly unhelpful but acts to deflect the attention from where it truly belongs.

We return to this House today for a very serious reason. It is not a day on which we should engage in the usual political cut and thrust; it is not a day for attempting to put about the impression that we are suddenly faced with a level of threat to the security of this State which is of unprecedented magnitude. While stressing that one can never hope to have knowledge of the vile schemes that may be under consideration by terrorist godfathers, those on whom we rely for security advice are not in any doubt that the security threat has been far greater for much of the past 30 years than it is now. There is no foundation for the suggestion that terrorist capacity has suddenly grown because of inactivity by the security forces or anybody else.

I do not propose to employ criticism of the security forces or blame my predecessors or the Governments to which they belonged for the fact that the measures I am proposing today were not introduced by them. Let the criticism and blame for the Omagh atrocity, and all the other atrocities, lie where it belongs. We want to move forward. Thankfully, the signs are that the road to real progress is widening all the time and we want to keep it that way. There is no merit in putting forward ideas which would set back the progress made and being made. The principal message we need to send today is that we will not allow a ruthless minority to parry the progress towards peace and stability which all right-thinking people on this island and beyond dearly wish to see achieved. Therefore, we must focus our attention today on tackling those still engaged in conflict or only temporarily desisting from it. Let them halt their campaigns now so that we will not have any more atrocities like that in Omagh.

With regard to the Real IRA, the issue of proscription was considered by the Government and the advice received is that it is not necessary to make suppression orders in respect of that or any other organisation. Two suppression orders have been made in accordance with section 19 of the Offences against the State Act, 1939. The Unlawful Organisation Suppression Order 1939 — No. 162 of 1939 — provides that the organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army — IRA — or Óglaigh na hÉireann is an unlawful organisation. The Unlawful Organisation Suppression Order 1983 — No. 3 of 1983 — declares that the organisation styling itself the Irish National Liberation Army — INLA — is an unlawful organisation.

Concerns were expressed regarding the right to silence. I do not accept the proposition that allowing inferences to be drawn from silence in certain specified circumstances represents an unwarranted attack on the right of an accused person. Section 5 of the Bill, which contains an inference provision, mirrors provisions which are already in place under the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996.

That leads to the question of surveillance evidence. This is a possibility which I and the Garda authorities see value in examining further. I have, therefore, asked my Department and the Garda authorities to review existing practices and legislative provisions concerning the use of evidence generated by surveillance in the context of prosecutions with a view to the development of legislative reform in this area should such action be required or prove desirable. This matter is not without its complexities and it raises policy and evidentiary issues of considerable significance. For example, the question of how such evidence can best be proved is clearly among the issues which must be addressed in the examination I have put in place. The Law Reform Commission's recent report on privacy raises other issues in this regard which will, of necessity, form part of that examination.

A number of objections were raised in respect of the collection of information. I stress that the information with which we are concerned here is of a type which is likely to be useful in the commission by members of an unlawful organisation of particular kinds of serious offences. The offence is specifically targeted at those who may not be involved directly in acts of terrorist violence but who play an essential part in their planning or preparation by way of the collection of information which is used for the purpose of the selection or identification of targets for terrorists attacks or otherwise in the carrying out of such attacks. In addition, with regard to the withholding of information, the offence only applies to the most serious cases where there is or has been a real risk of loss of human life, serious personal injury or serious loss of or damage to property.

I ask those who have difficulty with the provision what they perceive to be the duty of a person with knowledge of a planned murder or bomb attack. I am sure that no reasonable person would state that an individual should keep such information to themselves.

A number of Deputies queried the inclusion of the word "association" in section 4. I will return to this matter on Committee Stage but I must make it clear — it is obvious that confusion has arisen — that there will not be an individual offence of associating. That was never the intention. A number of colourful examples have been provided but the reality is that what is proposed is that the question of association will only be utilised by way of inference in corroborating other evidence. It would be a matter for the courts to decide whether the inference in support or in corroboration of other evidence should or should not be accepted.

With regard to it being reported that an individual is a member of an unlawful organisation, that has been the law in this country since 1972. This legal mechanism is limited in its scope because people who are mentioned as being members of unlawful organisations routinely deny such accusations.

Deputy O'Malley referred to section 14(1). I am advised that the subsection in question complies with the requirements of the Constitution. However, I will ensure that the concerns raised by Deputy O'Malley and others are given consideration. I intend to see if a formula can be found to make clear what he had to say about the Bill. To my knowledge no prisoner released under the terms of the British-Irish Agreement has been arrested under section 30 of the Offences against the State Act.

As it is now 5.30 p.m. I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of this day: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Question put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies who are claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Gregory, Higgins (Dublin West) and Ó Caoláin rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the question carried. The names of the Deputies claiming a division will be recorded in the Journal of the proceedings of the Dáil.

Question declared carried.
Sitting suspended at 5.45 p.m. and resumed at 6.30 p.m.