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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 4 Feb 2003

Vol. 560 No. 3

Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002: Second Stage.

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

The events of 11 September 2001 represented a defining moment for the world. We can all readily recall the horror with which we witnessed the barbaric attacks that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The close ties that exist between Ireland and the United States of America meant that those images were especially felt by the people of Ireland. A significant number of the more than 3,000 persons killed were Irish born and more, not least those brave and selfless members of the emergency services who lost their lives in the course of the rescue, had Irish connections.

Terrorism, of course, did not begin or end on 11 September. We continue to witness acts of terrorism around the globe on an all too frequent basis. Deputies will recall, in particular, in the period since 11 September, atrocities such as: the attempted suicide attack in December 2001 by the so-called "shoe bomber" on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami; the suicide attack in April last on the Tunisian island of Djerba in which 21 people died when a fuel tanker was detonated near a synagogue; the mass hostage taking at a Moscow theatre in October last which resulted in the death of more than 100 hostages; the bomb attacks in Bali, Indonesia, also in October last in which almost 200 persons lost their lives and many more were injured; the bomb attack in Kenya in November last in which 11 people died, as well as the failed missile attack the same day on an Israeli charter jet with over 260 passengers; and the suicide bombing on 5 January in Tel Aviv in which 23 people died and over 100 people were wounded in an explosion adjacent to the old central bus station, which was the latest in a series of such attacks.

Terrorism is not something unfamiliar to us in Ireland. We have long experienced domestic terrorism on this island and dissident republican and loyalist groups continue to pose a threat to the Good Friday Agreement and to peace. The events of 11 September were followed by a shared world-wide determination that the forces of terrorism should not prevail. There was also an early and widespread recognition that the response to the challenge of international terrorism represented by those atrocities would require concerted action and greater co-operation by the international community as well as action on the part of individual states. The determination to prevail over terrorism is reinforced by every subsequent act of terrorism as these attacks illustrate, in the most vivid manner, that international terrorism strikes at the heart of universal values such as peace, tolerance and freedom. Our response to these outrages must be to uphold and protect such values and to deny international terrorists the means and opportunities to launch attacks.

Moreover, the terrible images and heartbreaking stories born of such atrocities serve as a constant reminder that we, as members of this Legislature, have our own duty to ensure that terrorists will find no comfort in this jurisdiction. Such a solemn duty merits strong action, not merely fine words. This will allow Ireland to fully play its part in the fight against international terrorism in keeping with the response of the international community as a whole to the events of 11 September 2001 and subsequently.

The response demanded by the nature of the 11 September attacks quickly followed from the international community. The United Nations has been the focal point in framing that response at the level of the world community, while the European Union has played the key role at regional level. That response has provided an important part of the context in which this Bill has been framed.

The United Nations Security Council, of which Ireland was a member, adopted resolutions 1368 and 1373 with the intention of creating a framework for action by the world community. Resolution 1368 condemned the attacks of 11 September 2001 and called on states to work together to bring the perpetrators to justice and to redouble their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts. Resolution 1373 specified a range of measures on which states are required to take action, especially in the area of combating the financing of terrorism. As part of those measures, the United Nations also called on states to become parties to the relevant international conventions on terrorism and to co-operate, through bilateral and multilateral arrangements and agreements, to prevent and suppress terrorist attacks and take action against perpetrators of such acts.

The European Union also responded quickly to the challenge. Meeting on 20 September 2001, the Justice and Home Affairs Council agreed on a range of measures to be taken to step up the fight against terrorism within the European Union. Meeting the following day, the European Council approved a plan of action to this end. The fight against terrorism has remained a key priority for the Union in the period since and action continues to be taken on a wide range of fronts.

Among the measures on which political agreement was achieved at the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council in December 2001 was a framework decision on combating terrorism. This framework decision, which provides for a common definition of terrorist offences, including offences relating to terrorist groups, was subsequently formally adopted by the Council on 13 June 2002. Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann had earlier approved Ireland's participation in its adoption.

We, on this island, have had to face the challenge of terrorism. Dissident republican and loyalist groups continue to operate and pose a threat. As a result, legislation already in place here is more comprehensive than that in many other countries. However, our legislation has been primarily framed with reference to the threat posed by groups indigenous to Ireland. In the changed environment created by the events of 11 September 2001, it is clear we need additional legislative provisions to counter the international terrorist threat.

I will devote some time to outlining the Bill, given its importance and provenance, and I ask for the indulgence of the House in this regard. Against that background and building on our existing legislation, the Bill is intended to enable this State to play its part in the fight against international terrorism. It will give effect to a number of international instruments directed to terrorism and will enable us to meet commitments which the State has undertaken as part of the European Union and the broader international community, including commitments arising from United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373.

The Bill also amends our law more generally to enhance the capacity of the State to address the problem of international terrorism and makes provision for a number of additional measures directed, in particular, to the financing of terrorism. More specifically, the Bill serves three essential purposes. First, it will give effect in our law to the European Union framework decision on combating terrorism by making provision for the first time for terrorist offences to be defined as a separate and distinct category of offence in our law and by making provision for the application of the relevant provisions of the Offences against the State Acts, 1939 to 1998, to terrorist groups who commit terrorist offences, whether based inside or outside the State.

Second, it will give effect to three United Nations conventions directed to specific manifestations of terrorism, namely, the Convention against the Taking of Hostages, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons and the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

Third, it will give effect to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and will make ancillary provision for the purpose of combating the financing of terrorism by means of the creation of dedicated procedures allowing for the freezing of funds used or intended to be used for terrorist offences or terrorist groups.

I now propose to outline the Bill's main provisions by reference to these three essential purposes. Part 1 defines certain terms used in the Bill and provides for the bringing into force of the Bill when enacted. Part 2 will give effect to the framework decision on combating terrorism adopted by the Council of the European Union on 13 June 2002. This framework decision is directed to the approximation of the laws of the member states in relation to a common definition of terrorist offences, including offences relating to terrorist groups. This new common understanding of what terrorism means will be important not only in providing a co-ordinated European Union-wide response to terrorism, but also in facilitating cross-border co-operation in tackling it.

Framework decisions are binding on member states as to the result to be achieved, but leave to national authorities the choice of form and methods and do not entail direct effect. The Bill, therefore, proposes to make the necessary provision in our law to give effect to the framework decision and, accordingly, provides for terrorist offences as a separate and distinct category of offence in our law by reference to definitions of "terrorist activity" and "terrorist linked activity". It also makes provision for terrorist groups by way of the application of the relevant provisions of the Offences against the State Acts to such groups and for enhanced penalties to attach to terrorist offences in certain circumstances.

The definitions are outlined in section 4. "Terrorist activity" is defined by reference to offences under our law which are committed in or outside the State with the intent of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, economic or social structures of a state or an international organisation.

The specified offences for the purpose of the definition of terrorist activity are set out in Part 1 of Schedule 2 and comprise those offences under Irish law which correspond to the specified categories of intentional acts set out in article 1 of the framework decision. These are serious offences, for which persons are liable to be tried on indictment, involving violence against persons or property and related firearms and explosives offences or offences involving chemical or nuclear weapons. Likewise, the required intent for the purpose of the definition follows closely the wording of the framework decision itself.

"Terrorist linked activity" is similarly defined by reference to certain other specified offences under our law committed in or outside the State for the purpose of engaging in terrorist activity or in connection with the activities of terrorist groups by reference to the relevant offences under the Offences against the State Acts. The specified offences for this purpose are set out in Parts 2 and 3 of the second Schedule and comprise those offences which correspond to specified categories of intentional acts set out in article 3 of the framework decision, that is, offences of aggravated burglary and robbery, blackmail, extortion and certain forgery offences. "Terrorist group" is defined by reference to the framework decision, that is, a structured group of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorist offences.

Section 6 makes provision for terrorist offences by reference to those definitions and in keeping with the requirements of the framework decision. Subsection (1) provides that a person who engages in terrorist activity or terrorist linked activity inside or, in certain circumstances, outside the State, is guilty of an offence. It also makes attempting to engage in terrorist activity or in terrorist linked activity and threatening to engage in terrorist activity inside or outside the State an offence. The effect of the definitions of terrorist activity and terrorist linked activity will be to require proof of the commission of the relevant underlying offence, together with proof of the special intent, for that to become a terrorist offence or terrorist linked offence as the case may be.

The circumstances in which terrorist offences committed outside the State will be offences in our law are governed by subsections (2) and (3) and correspond to those circumstances in which article 9 of the framework decision requires us to take extra-territorial jurisdiction. Extra-territorial jurisdiction will also be exercisable in circumstances where a request for extradition has been made and is refused.

Subsection (4) of section 6 provides that subsection (1) will not apply in respect of the activities of armed forces during an armed conflict in so far as those activities are governed by international humanitarian law, or the activities of military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties in so far as those activities are governed by other rules of international law. Similar provisions are made in relation to the UN Convention offences dealt with in Part 3 of the Bill, in keeping with the relevant requirements of those conventions.

Subsections (5) and (6), recognising the special difficulties that can attach to proving offences of specific intent, also make provision for certain circumstances in which the existence of the intent required for the purposes of committing the offence of engaging in or attempting to engage in terrorist activity may be presumed to exist, subject to the right of the accused to rebut that presumption. Subsection (7) makes provision for co-operation in respect of prosecutions in relation to terrorist offences in circumstances where more than one member state may have jurisdiction.

The penalties which will apply to persons convicted of terrorist offences are set out in section 7. This provides, in keeping with article 5 of the framework decision, for enhanced penalties in certain circumstances by reference to the penalties imposable for the same offence when committed without the special intent required for terrorist offences. The penalty imposable will be the same where it is a sentence of imprisonment fixed by law or imprisonment for life, but enhanced maximum penalties will be available in all other circumstances.

Section 5 makes provision for terrorist groups, as defined in section 4, by way of the application of other relevant provisions of the Offences against the State Acts to such groups whether based inside or outside the State. This will allow the requirements imposed by Articles 2 and 9 of the framework decision to be met in keeping with our existing law directed to unlawful organisations. It is also in keeping with a recommendation of the Committee to Review the Offences against the State Acts which was that the Government should have power to make a suppression order in respect of foreign terrorist organisations. The section provides that terrorist groups will be unlawful organisations for the purposes of the Offences against the State Acts and that the relevant provisions – including, for example, provision for the offences of membership and directing an unlawful organisation – will attach equally to terrorist groups, as will the power of the Government to make suppression orders in relation to them.

Part 6 makes provision for certain amendments to the Offences against the State Acts which are directed principally to the requirements of the framework decision. These include provision for a new offence of providing assistance to an unlawful organisation in section 51. That offence will be committed where a person knowingly renders assistance to an unlawful organisation in the performance or furtherance of an unlawful object. A person found guilty of this new offence will be liable to the same penalties as those provided for in the case of membership. This provision flows in part from a recommendation in the report of the committee to which I have referred which recognised that there could be cases where persons are closely associated with unlawful organisations and actively further their ends but are not, or cannot be proven to be, members of the organisation. It is also in keeping with the concept of participation in a terrorist group used in Article 4 of the framework decision which would not necessarily be fully met by the existing offence of membership.

The second such amendment to which I refer is being made by section 50 of the Bill to increase the maximum penalty for membership of an unlawful organisation to €3,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months in the case of a summary conviction, and an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to eight years in the case of a person found guilty on conviction on indictment. This meets a requirement in Article 5 of the framework decision.

The framework decision is explicitly stated as not being intended to amend the obligation to respect the fundamental legal principles enshrined in Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union, which has reference, inter alia, to the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, which are common to member states, as well as to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

I hope it will be clear from what I have just said that the provision being made in the Bill for the purposes of giving effect to the framework decision on combating terrorism should not give rise to concern on the part of those who seek change in our society or who engage in legitimate protest.

The Bill does not, as has been suggested frequently and irresponsibly elsewhere, define terrorism as any activity which unduly compels a Government or international organisation to change course. Nor does it define terrorism as any activity which destabilises or destroys the fundamental political economic or social structures of a state. The Bill does not, therefore, and is not intended to, criminalise the anti-globalisation movement because that movement is seeking to reform world trade. Nor would the Bill have had any application to the anti-apartheid movement because it campaigned for the replacement of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The Bill does not make it an offence to seek change, nor does it make it an offence to have a cause. We value the right to espouse causes in our society and the Government will continue to defend that right, including the right of persons to espouse causes and views with which the Government itself may disagree. The Bill will, in its own way, protect such persons from those who would threaten that right. What is not legitimate – and where the Bill draws the line – is where persons or organisations engage in concerted campaigns of violence in support of such causes.

The Bill does not criminalise conduct which would not already be an offence under our law, except to the extent that it provides for the taking of extraterritorial jurisdiction in the limited cir cumstances I have outlined. What the Bill does mean, however, is that people and organisations who have recourse to serious offences involving violence such as hijacking, explosives offences and murder – with the intention of intimidating a population, unduly compelling a government or international organisation, or seriously destabilising or destroying a state or international organisation – will, in keeping with that intention, be guilty of a terrorist offence instead of the offence which they would otherwise be guilty of under our criminal law.

The purpose of Part 3 is to enable Ireland to become party to three United Nations conventions which are relevant in the context of the international effort against terrorism. I have told the House already what they are.

Convention-specific offences are being created in this Bill for the purpose of each of the three conventions in order to ensure full compliance with the requirements under each convention, including the requirement to take extraterritorial jurisdiction. These offences will in certain cases supplement existing offences under our law directed to the same or similar conduct. They will at the same time ensure that any gaps as between existing offences, and the offences as defined in the convention, are bridged.

Sections 9 to 11 provide for the new offences. Section 9 provides for the new offence of hostage-taking. It provides that a person is guilty of the offence of hostage-taking if he or she, in or outside the State, seizes or detains another person and threatens to kill, injure or continue to detain the hostage in order to compel a state, an international intergovernmental organisation, a person or a group of persons to do, or abstain from doing, any act.

Section 10 provides for the offence of terrorist bombing. It provides that a person is guilty of an offence if he or she, in or outside the State, unlawfully and intentionally delivers, places, discharges or detonates an explosive or other lethal device in, into or against a place of public use, a state or Government facility, a public transportation system or an infrastructure facility with intent to cause death or serious bodily injury or with intent to cause destruction when destruction results in, or is likely to result in, major economic loss.

Section 11 makes provision in relation to internationally protected persons. It will be possible to rely on existing offences under our law for the purpose of meeting our obligations in relation to offences committed against internationally protected persons in this jurisdiction. Section 11, therefore, makes provision for the taking of jurisdiction in respect of those offences when committed outside the State in certain circumstances by reference to the relevant domestic offences set out in Schedule 6 to the Bill.

Sections 9 to 11 also make it an offence to attempt to commit the substantive offence while section 11 makes it an offence to threaten to commit an act which would be an offence under that section. Persons guilty of the offence of hostage-taking or terrorist bombing will be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life. Persons guilty of an offence in relation to internationally protected persons under section 11 will be liable to be punished by the same penalties which are applicable to the offences if committed in the State. The offence of threatening to commit an offence carries a sanction of imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.

The three sections also make the relevant conduct an offence when committed outside the State in certain circumstances. The approach to extraterritorial jurisdiction in all three conventions is largely similar although there are some differences as between them.

The third key element of the Bill is the measures contained in Parts 4 and 6 intended to give effect to the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and aimed at combating terrorist financing more generally in keeping with our obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and the financial action task force recommendations.

The key provision in the Bill for the purpose of giving effect to the convention is section 13, which makes provision for the new offence of financing terrorism and which gives effect to the definition of that offence in Article 2 of the convention. It also goes beyond the requirements of the convention to include the financing of terrorist groups as defined in section 4 and terrorist offences within the meaning of section 6 to the extent that these are not covered by the convention.

The jurisdiction provisions in section 13 correspond to both the mandatory and the discretionary jurisdiction requirements in Article 7 of the convention. The one exception is that they do not apply to the framework decision element of the offence; this element is covered by the jurisdiction provisions of sections 6(2) and 6(3). The definition of "funds" in Article 1 of the convention is reflected at section 12. It is a comprehensive definition covering assets of every kind with the emphasis very much on financial transactions.

Part 4 also provides for two distinct and dedicated procedures for the purpose of giving effect to Article 8 of the convention and to our wider obligations under Resolution 1373. Both procedures are court-based and build on existing provisions of our law. The key difference between them is that the first will enable an application to be made to freeze funds intended for use in committing terrorist offences independently of criminal proceedings, whereas the second will be available for use in conjunction with such proceedings in respect of the new offence of financing terrorism. The two procedures will therefore complement each other.

Provision for the first of these procedures is made in sections 14 to 20 and will enable funds which are being used, or which may be intended to be used, for the purpose of committing terrorist offences, including the offence of financing ter rorism, to be frozen and ultimately made subject to a disposal order in favour of the State. The procedure closely mirrors the existing provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 under which the High Court can order the preservation, and where appropriate, the disposal of property which constitutes the proceeds of crime.

Section 14 will accordingly enable the High Court to make an interim order prohibiting a person from disposing of funds for a period of up to 40 days where it is satisfied, on foot of an ex parte application to the court by a chief superintendent of the Garda Síochána, that a person possesses funds that are being used or may be intended for use in the commission of a terrorist offence or a terrorist financing offence. Section 15 will enable the High Court to make an interlocutory order extending the period during which the funds are frozen unless satisfied, by any person claiming an interest in those funds, that they are not intended for such use or that there would be a serious risk of injustice. Section 16 will in similar circumstances enable the High Court to make a disposal order in favour of the State where an interlocutory order has been in force for a period of not less than seven years.

The Bill also makes provision for a statement by a chief superintendent that he or she believes funds are being used or are intended for use in committing or facilitating the commission of a terrorist offence to be evidence, provided that the High Court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for that belief. In addition, it provides for the payment of compensation, as the court considers just, to a person in respect of any loss incurred by a person in respect of orders made in accordance with the procedure.

The second procedure in Part 4 of the Bill to which I referred is contained in sections 21 to 43, inclusive. These provisions provide a statutory framework which will enable the confiscation, restraint and forfeiture provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 to be applied for the purpose of the new offence of terrorist financing. It is necessary to legislate in this way as the existing relevant provisions of the 1994 Act only allow for the confiscation and restraint of the benefits derived from drug trafficking and the benefits from an offence other than drug trafficking. The Bill amends the 1994 Act to provide a dedicated procedure for the purpose of the offence of financing terrorism.

The effect of the amendments will be that where a person has been convicted of and sentenced for an offence of financing terrorism, the Director of Public Prosecutions can apply to the court to determine whether the person holds funds subject to confiscation. The expression "funds subject to confiscation" is defined in section 8A of the 1994 Act, which is being inserted into that Act by section 22 of the Bill, as funds used or allocated for use in connection with an offence of financing terrorism, or funds that are the proceeds of such an offence. Also, in line with the drug trafficking and other offences provisions of the 1994 Act, the standard of proof applicable in civil proceedings is the standard required to determine whether a person holds funds subject to confiscation and, if so, the amount to be recovered, in other words, on the balance of probability.

The 1994 Act also contains important provisions directed to the prevention and detection of money laundering. Section 32 of the Bill amends the relevant provisions of the 1994 Act to extend the obligation on financial institutions to adopt measures for the purpose of preventing and detecting money laundering to also cover the prevention and detection of the offence of financing terrorism. Likewise, under section 38, the obligation on financial institutions to report to the Garda Síochána any suspicion of money laundering is being extended to include an obligation to report any suspicion of an offence of financing terrorism being committed in connection with their business. These provisions will provide an important means by which the existence of terrorist funds may come to light and provide a basis for recourse to the procedures for the freezing of those funds which I have just outlined.

Another section in Part 4 I wish to mention is section 44 which empowers the Minister for Finance to make regulations directed to freezing terrorist funds in order that enabling Acts adopted by the institutions of the European Communities for this purpose can be given full effect. The real significance of section 44 is that it provides for an indictable offence for breach of the regulations. At present, breach of the regulations can only be tried summarily. This provision will have particular application to the measures adopted within the European Union for the purpose of giving effect to UN Resolution 1373.

Part 6 of the Bill will also make provision for another important element of the package directed at combating the financing of terrorism by way of an amendment of the Offences against the State Acts. The Bill will allow existing provisions of those Acts which have application to the property of unlawful organisations to be applied to terrorist groups. Certain additional measures are also being provided for in the Bill, including in section 53 provision for a procedure directed to the recovery of the property of unlawful organisations in respect of which a suppression order has been made which stands forfeited to the Minister. This procedure, which will be court based, draws on the provisions of the Offences against the State (Amendment) Act 1985 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 for inspiration and is intended to complement the procedure under the 1985 Act which applies to the moneys of unlawful organisations held in a bank. It includes a provision allowing any interim order made by the court to be challenged by any person claiming ownership of the property and for the payment of compensation in appropriate circumstances.

Sections 52, 54 and 55 of the Bill make certain other amendments to the Offences against the State Acts for the purpose of combating the financing of terrorism. These include updating the definition of property in line with other provisions of the Bill and amendments to the 1985 Act to ensure it will be available for use as circumstances require.

These are the key elements of the Bill which contains certain other procedural provisions as well as consequential amendments to a number of other Acts to which I could also refer but I am conscious that I have already spoken at length. There will be an opportunity to deal with any queries Deputies may have in relation to those provisions in my reply or on Committee Stage.

My reasons for speaking at such length about the Bill are the circumstances and context in which it has been prepared, the complexity of some of its provisions and the manner in which they relate one to another. In addition, there has already been a tendency on the part of some to misrepresent the Bill and suggest it is directed at ordinary, peaceful, democratic activity, the free expression of convictions and free political association. I hope my comments will assist the House in its task of considering the Bill which is important, not least because it will equip the State more fully for the purpose of responding to the threat posed by international terrorism but also because it will enable the State to honour important international commitments and play our full part, as a member of the international community, in the fight against terrorism.

This country still faces terrorist threats from both within and without. I intend to ensure our law is such that Ireland harbours neither a terrorist threat from within directed at ourselves or others on the islands nor persons intent on abusing the hospitality they receive here to plan international terrorist offences of the kind we have witnessed and which I mentioned. I welcome the contributions of Members from all sides to this legislation, particularly any contribution which will make the Bill fairer, more effective, just and efficient. I will consider amendments and proposals from any quarter. I hope the House joins me in ensuring the Bill gets a speedy passage through the Legislature. Important though it is and extensive though its powers may be, it is directed towards ensuring Ireland is not a society within which those planning to kill other innocent people can find legal loopholes through which to carry out their cowardly plans. I commend it to the House.

May I share my time with Deputy Crawford?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle


I hope the Minister deems my contribution useful. The Bill bolsters domestic law dealing with international terrorism, not just because of the events of 11 September 2001 but also due to events listed by the Minister: Tunisia, Moscow, Bali, Kenya and Tel Aviv. There is also continuing domestic terrorism. We will seek clarification of some issues as we move through the sections.

The Bill allows Ireland to join the international community in dealing with terrorism under several conventions. It also defines terrorist acts as those aimed at intimidating a population or compelling a Government or international organisation to alter its course or seriously destabilising political, economic or social structures.

There are probably three main areas covered by the Bill. First, it gives effect to the EU framework decision on combating terrorism which was adopted last year and makes specific provision for distinct categories of terrorist offences – serious offences which carry a terrorist intent. It looks like the penalties have been enhanced – doubled in many cases – in comparison with sentences for offences already on the Statute Book.

Adopting the EU framework is appropriate. It makes sense that we approximate EU law in this area when we deal with terrorism. There are some valid questions arising regarding sentences under the framework. They should be cleared up.

In section 6(4), the Bill exempts activities of the armed forces in two situations – during an armed conflict and when performing their official duties. With regard to the armed forces during an armed conflict, they are exempt in so far as those activities are governed by international humanitarian law. With regard to the armed forces of a state performing their official duties, they are exempt in so far as those activities are governed by other rules of international law. It is difficult to understand the reason for differentiating between international humanitarian law and other rules of international law. Is it suggested that armed conflict be governed only by international humanitarian law whereas armed forces in the exercise of their official duties are subject to international law, except for international humanitarian law? If so, why?

With regard to sentencing, Article 5 of the EU framework decision obliges member states to ensure that terrorist offences as defined are punishable by custodial sentences heavier than those imposable under national law for such offences, in the absence of the special intent required pursuant to Article 1.1, except where the sentences imposable are already the maximum possible under Irish law. Section 7 of the Bill provides for imprisonment not exceeding 20 years if the corresponding offence at national law is punishable by a sentence of up to ten years, imprisonment not exceeding 15 years if the offence at national law is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years and imprisonment not exceeding ten years in any other case.

The effect of this is to allow judicial discretion as to the sentence to be imposed on conviction, so long as the sentence does not exceed the specified period. The effect of the section is not to guarantee that a person committing an offence under the Bill will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment longer than that which he or she might have been sentenced to for a similar offence not connected with terrorist activity. In that light, it is arguable that the Bill fails to implement Article 5 of the EU framework decision. A more effective wording might be to provide for sentences of not less than X years and not more than Y years.

Section 7 further provides for the imposition of life imprisonment on conviction for sentences for which the mandatory life sentence applies at Irish law. The implementation of the mandatory life sentence in this jurisdiction has not always been as stark as the strict terms of the sentence might suggest. In some situations, in order to guarantee imprisonment for significant periods, it might be more effective to specify a fixed term of imprisonment. The Minister might deal with that in his reply.

Another broad area concerns the conventions mentioned by the Minister. The Bill creates new offences of hostage taking, terrorist bombing and offences against internationally protected persons such as diplomats, as the Minister has said. That makes sense and Fine Gael supports this section of the Bill. My only question concerns the length of time taken for the conventions to be adopted. The convention on the taking of hostages was adopted by the UN in 1979, that on the prevention and punishment of crimes against internationally protected persons was adopted in 1973, that on the suppression of terrorist bombing was adopted in 1998 and that on the suppression of the financing of terrorism was adopted in 2000. Why has it taken so long to adopt these conventions?

The financing of terrorism is a further broad area. The Bill provides for the freezing and confiscation of funds where it is shown that the funds in question are being used, or may be used, in committing or facilitating those terrorist offences described. There is a question here with regard to the system placing a burden of proof on the respondent in some cases, which is outside the norm. The usual procedure in Ireland is to place the burden of proof on the applicant and questions have been raised regarding the infringement of civil liberties such as the right to a fair trial, and regarding private property. This should be clarified. I understand there are similar provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996. They are largely mirrored in those Acts but there could be further explanation or clarification in the context of the concerns which have been raised regarding civil liberties.

In the explanatory memorandum, it appears that the member of the Garda Síochána who makes the application to the High Court, in the context of this section of the Bill, should be of chief superintendent rank. That is not reflected in the Bill which refers to applications being made by any member of the Garda Síochána.

The Minister has spent some time reflecting on the criticisms made in the press, especially with regard to those taking part in an anti-globalisation demonstration. I agree with the Minister and do not believe that anything will change in this regard because of the legislation. The Bill clearly covers crimes with specific terrorist intent and legitimate protest will not be affected by it. Too much has been made of this. The Nelson Mandela scenario has been mentioned but, looking at this, our extradition laws do not allow for someone to be sent back to a situation where persecution exists. I agree with the Minister in that respect.

Fine Gael supports the Bill and looks forward to clarification of the issues I have raised.

I will not go into the finer detail of the Bill but feel I should say a few words on it. I welcome the Minister and his commitment to deal with this matter. I know from the Minister's background that he is totally committed to dealing with the issue of terrorism and its national and international effects.

I was frustrated and annoyed last week by a matter unrelated to this Bill but to the Minister's stature in the Dáil and the community. He tried to defend the indefensible when he said that Deputy O'Dea, as Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, could wear two hats and be an ordinary Deputy at home, wheeling and dealing with major problems, yet wear a different hat in this House. However, we are dealing with a Bill that has very serious international connotations and will ensure that Ireland can get involved with the European Union and other jurisdictions to ensure that crime of this type is dealt with in a positive and constructive way.

When one looks back at the events of 11 September, it is a miracle that so few Irish people were directly involved in a country where there are a vast number of people of Irish descent. That did not make it any easier to accept that terrorists could cause such mayhem and destruction but it proved beyond doubt our need to be part of a global effort to ensure that terrorism has no safe haven, in Ireland, the European Union or elsewhere.

I was not the best at geography when I was at school and I did not know about a place called Bali until I heard about the 2,000 deaths there. I was surprised at the number of people I met shortly afterwards who had been to that holiday resort on holiday or honeymoon and who had enjoyed it. It was terrible that terrorists could kill so many people in such a short time. It had a devastating influence on the economy of that area, but it will survive. As one who was born and reared close to the Border and who continues to live there, I know better than most how such events can affect an area. I remember the railway, the canal and the road around Clones being closed at the same time which meant that economic activity could not take place as there was no access to the town.

One of the advantages of being involved in farm organisations was that I was part of lobby groups and protests which some people say this Bill opposes. However, that is not the case. All such protests are legitimate. They are essential to ensure that we, as politicians, and others know about the problems which exist. It is stupid to suggest that any such group could be the victim of this legislation. My involvement with the European Union made me committed to the different treaties to which we have signed up and which have been passed by this House. The European Union is of major benefit to us. It was great that the European Union reacted quickly and introduced this legislation after 11 September. We can rest assured that our involvement in such structures means we are more important now than we were when we first became involved in 1973.

We are all worried about how money from drugs is spent. I am glad that is dealt with in the Bill. Another major issue, particularly in the Border region, is how money from oil laundering is spent. That practice puts many legitimate businesses under threat and much damage can be done. We all know the history of money laundering in this country and the fact that those who were suspected of it were not always involved.

Another major issue is the financing of terrorism. One wonders why there is in-fighting in loyalism in Northern Ireland. That proves that terrorism is not always on one side or the other. Terrorism leads to a demand for finance. While this Bill is broader than the Irish context, it is important that we examine these issues in the near future. The amount of money accumulated and the way it is spent is frightening. I am glad the Bill provides for terrorist funds to be frozen, even if it is only suspected that the money might be used for terrorist purposes. That might help us to avert terrorist acts. The Garda Síochána or the force of law in whatever jurisdiction must get support to ensure such funding is confiscated. We are often given lectures about spending money, although it may be little, but we are talking about millions which have been made through these systems. Such money must be controlled.

The Bill gives life sentences to those involved in hostage taking or terrorist bombings. That was one area of the Good Friday Agreement which annoyed me. It was terrible that people from all sides of the divide who were identified as being involved in heinous crimes, such as bombing churches, pubs, etc., were granted full release from prison. I hope that the people involved in such activities get life sentences and that they are detained for life. I would not have been as annoyed if the other elements of the Good Friday Agreement, such as decommissioning, had been fully met. We must strike an even balance.

The legislation provides for an increase in fines. Perhaps the Minister could examine this issue to which Deputy Deasy referred. It might be possible to look at maximum and minimum fines. It is crazy that people in my area can get off if they pay money to the court poor box. The justice system is laughable in that regard. I know it is a national and local issue, but it is still relevant to the debate. Perhaps the Minister could consider introducing maximum and minimum fines. It is all right to increase fines, but unless people expect a minimum fine, they will not be afraid of the system. It is demoralising for people who want to maintain law and order if people get off scot free.

It is important to be able to freeze terrorist funds. I am not well briefed on the Bill because I am not a legal expert, unlike the Minister and many other Members in the House. However, I support its general thrust. As a result of my involvement in the European Union, I realise the benefit of working with other nations. They may not all be perfect and others may contradict what I have said, but we have benefited greatly from our involvement in Europe. I remember when my former party leader, who was also Taoiseach, made drugs the main issue which had to be dealt with. He wanted to ensure that law enforcement agencies could work in different jurisdictions. This Bill is similar in many ways. It will allow us to play our part in ensuring that international terrorism is controlled and that the world is a safer place.

The Labour Party supports the Bill. As the Minister outlined in his address, the legislation was introduced against the background of 11 September in the United States which was tragic, devastating and traumatic. We sympathise greatly with the people of the United States in the tragedy they suffered from what one can only describe as terrorism of the worst possible kind. The Minister outlined a number of other instances of extreme and violent acts of terrorism in various parts of the world, including the Paris to Miami flight, the Tunisian island of Djerba, Moscow, Bali, Kenya and Tel Aviv. In that list there is a preponderance of terrorism perpetrated on the American people. In putting legislation through the House it behoves us to consider it in the broadest possible context, considering not just the here and now but also the future implications.

The twin towers holocaust brought the notorious organisation, al-Qaeda, to public notice. It was swiftly pursued to Afghanistan by the United States which has now directed its attention at Iraq, claiming that al-Qaeda is hosted by the Iraqi President and his regime. There seems to be very little evidence to that effect because of the totally polarised attitude of one secular society with an Islamic background and other fundamentalists, as in al-Qaeda. That is one aspect of the case we have to consider in the context of a looming war.

We also have to consider the situation in the light of events in Palestine, a country in which Ireland has always taken great interest as a small country whose people, by and large, have been deprived of a homeland. Many of the terrorist atrocities that have taken place, not only in recent months but also in past decades, were not directed at the American people and we did not bring forward legislation such as is now before the House. Very often, they were directed at other targets, particularly the Israeli economy and its airlines, involving kidnapping, hostage taking and the Munich killings. Undoubtedly, there is a fundamentalist aspect to the worldwide terrorism of recent decades which arises from that conflict. A speedy resolution of that conflict would be ten times better than any legislation in any country to rid the world of terrorism. I note that the Minister is nodding his head in agreement that actions are better than any law which, at best, is a blunt instrument and can only operate in extreme crisis situations. My basic point is that we need to consider the situation in the broadest context. We should urge the people of the United States for whom we have the greatest sympathy at this time to look at the causes of the conflict. The United States Administration should not rush into an ill-considered war against an enemy which does not appear to be the source of terrorism against the United States.

We have international commitments which we must observe, whether they arise from the international community through the United Nations or the European Union. The Bill relates to EU decisions and UN conventions. We should satisfy ourselves that we have the appropriate legislation. The issues which have been outlined include bombing, hijacking, hostage taking, money laundering and financing terrorism. Undoubtedly, all must be dealt with. As the Minister said, EU framework decisions are binding on member states as to the results to be achieved but leave to national authorities the choice of form and methods and do not entail direct effect. Essentially, the directive is binding on Ireland but we still have a great deal of scope and freedom as to the presentation of its provisions, the mechanisms we use and what protections we introduce, provided we achieve the intended effect.

The Bill strikes me as very stark legislation for the world stage, rather than being appropriate to our little country which is neutral. It speaks as if the enemy was at the gates, as though our country had been close to large-scale terrorist activities all the time and as if we were in imminent danger. Legislation should only be introduced when it has a particular purpose. If it is not relevant, it simply brings legislation into disrepute. I wish to refer to some areas that have given rise to public concern and pose the question as to whether we have got the best deal in this regard or whether perhaps we need to look at the Bill more carefully. There is not much point in passing legislation only to find that in the process we may have infringed certain rights in relation to assembly, protest, strike or other matters of this nature.

Section 4 is critical in this context in the definition of terrorist activity. It refers to an act committed inside or outside the State with the intention of seriously intimidating a population. I would never have anticipated a definition of terrorism in the terms used in the Bill –"intimidat ing a population, unduly compelling a government or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act". I always thought it was the function of the Opposition to, duly or unduly, compel a Government to take some action or abstain from it, as the case may be.

The Bill deals with terrorists.

There are no terrorists on this side of the House. Perhaps the term might have some reference to a certain Minister of State.

The Bill also refers to "seriously destabilising a government". Perhaps the Minister will elaborate on what happened on 30 June, in what was probably one of his first acts as a member of the newly formed Government. The European Council of Ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, agreed on the framework decision referred to in the Bill. How did it come up with these types of terrorist activity? All the other United Nations conventions do not have wordings of this nature. This wording seems to trawl much wider. It is a catch-all wording which could apply to a multitude of activities, whereas the wording used in the other conventions seems to be tighter and more specific. Section 6(5)(b) states, “The accused person shall be presumed, unless the court is satisfied to the contrary, to have committed or attempted to commit the act with that intention.”

"Intention" and "presumption" are strange words and difficult to accept easily in legislation.

Then there is the term "corresponding offence", in the last paragraph of the same Part, where the normal rule of law will apply. The Bill states, ‘ "corresponding offence", in relation to a person convicted of an offence . . . means the offence for which the person would have been liable to be convicted had the act constituted the offence under that section been committed in the State in the absence of the intent . . . ". In other words, the corresponding offence is now being determined by the intent referred to in paragraph (b). Therefore, the intention to commit a terrorist offence is the determining factor. I wonder how the Minister will determine from where this intention will come, how it will be determined as distinct from evidence, the intent and the presumption of that intention.

On the Council framework decision contained in the Schedule, it seems there is a contradiction in the definition of terrorist group. Article 2 states a terrorist group is "a structured group of more than two persons". I suppose two persons do not constitute a terrorist group. I am wondering why the Minister decided it should be "more than two persons", seeing as most public order legislation speaks of two or more persons. Why does it further state that a terrorist group is "established over a period of time"? Could it not be established at a particular time?

It is to stop instantaneous rioters being deemed to be a terrorist group.

It is a protection. Therefore, a person who decides at a particular time rather than over a period of time to be a terrorist will get away with it.

This is what happens when one starts to define things.

That is the reason I want to go through the relevant sections. I am concerned that there should be adequate protection. The article mentioned continues in a loosely worded fashion. It states it "shall mean a group that is not randomly formed for the immediate commission of an offence". Why does it use the words "randomly formed" rather than purposefully formed? It is not precise legal wording.

Framework decisions are drafted by the Commission which has a different type of drafter.

Yes but what we are looking at is the actual definition.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

This is developing into a Committee Stage debate.

That is because the Minister chooses to intervene. He is always being provocative in the Chamber. What I am saying is that this is, in fact, the definition of terrorist group from the framework decision and that, therefore, we must go along with this. It is not pie in the sky.

That is how Europeans decided it.

We have to deal with it. It further states that it is "not randomly formed for the immediate commission of an offence and that it does not need to have formally defined roles for its members, continuity of its membership . . . ". It is loose and seems not at all like the definition of a terrorist group. I would like the Minister to respond to these issues in terms of why he accepted it. I am referring to the events of 13 June. The Minister, a lawyer—

When one comes in contact with the civil law, this is what one ends up with.

I thought the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was trying to prevent us turning this into a Committee Stage debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

I would prefer if much of the details were left until Committee Stage.

These are the critical aspects: what constitutes a terrorist group; what constitutes a terrorist activity; and how the law operates in terms of intention, presumption and so on.

On the same page the framework decision lists where terrorist activity takes place – for example, the causing of destruction, damage, etc., to public property and private property. I must ask the following question. Would the peace protesters arrested at Shannon Airport, one of whom caused extensive damage to property, have had the intention of destabilising or unduly compelling a Government or international—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Minister may answer that question on Committee Stage.

It is a rhetorical question at this point. I do not expect the Minister to answer me at this point.

It is for the courts to answer it.

If that is the case and this construction can be put on it, as seems to be the case, there are a host of activities which take place at demonstrations and protests, where the Garda does intervene and some people are charged with offences such as the offence of obstruction, damage caused to vehicles, or property, which are described here as corresponding offences, which, because of the manner in which all of this is worded, can now be dealt with by the Special Criminal Court. I would like the Minister to let the House know that there are sufficient safeguards in order that the human rights and civil liberties of citizens of this country will not be interfered with.

In a couple of weeks we will put through the European Convention on Human Rights Bill, which will be welcome. It could be a better Bill but at least we will at last after 50 years be implementing the convention. We certainly do not need to enact one piece of legislation which undermines another. The Special Criminal Court is our home-grown contribution to the directive. I am sure all the Ministers who attended the Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 13 June did not tell the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that he had wonderful legislation in Ireland establishing the Special Criminal Court and that they would incorporate it as part of their legislation in implementing the framework decision.

They do not have jury trials in most places on the Continent.

Clearly, this is an extension of the Special Criminal Court. If I remember correctly, in 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was being passed, one of the commitments made was that all special and emergency legislation, including the Offences Against the State Act and that relating to the Special Criminal Court, would be looked at with a view to normalising legislation on the island in order that jury trials would become not just the norm but also the only manner in which we would deal with offences in Ireland, as is the case in the neighbouring jurisdiction and most other countries. We are now moving in the opposite direction and extending the remit of the Special Criminal Court and trials without juries. I am not saying that is wrong in the context of terrorist offences but it is wrong if there are not enough protections to ensure our citizens are safeguarded. They might be on the streets to demonstrate against globalisation or on behalf of peace. It could be the third level students who will march tomorrow against the imposition of third level fees and something might get out of hand, although I would not expect that demonstration to come within the remit of this legislation. Nevertheless, we could be applying the Special Criminal Court to a range of new categories of offences.

The Hederman committee was established to review the workings of the Special Criminal Court and produced an interim report. I am not sure what happened to the final report. There was a minority report and a majority report. Perhaps the Minister will outline what proposals the committee made arising from the Good Friday Agreement for normalising legislation here. None of the other countries in Europe has introduced a special criminal court to deal with terrorist offences.

Only two or three countries in Europe permit jury trials in such cases.

Has any other country established a special court to deal with this issue?

They all have special courts.

With regard to financing terrorism, I welcome the convention on money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. We have made substantial progress in this area and, through the Criminal Assets Bureau, in dealing with assets criminally obtained. I have no problem with the remit of that legislation being extended. The forthcoming Proceeds of Crime Bill will also be welcome. Our party has pioneered action in this area and I welcome these measures which are part of the action being taken to combat the financing of terrorism.

I do not have concerns about the United Nations and other international conventions. I doubt that anybody on this side of the House has concerns about dealing with terrorism, as long as it is terrorism. It is strange that we are not just talking about states but also about international organisations. Where and what are the international organisations to which this legislation applies? The only international organisation which has been subject to threat is the World Trade Organisation. There have been substantial protests and violence erupted in Genoa last year and earlier in the United States.

There seems to be an aim in this legislation to deal with protests that might be considered over-vigorous. I am worried that it could be interpreted in that way. It is one thing for the Minister to say that this is not his intention, that his inten tion is purely to ensure terrorists are dealt with expeditiously but once the legislation is in place it is there to be interpreted. The wording in section 4 and part of the Schedule is so loose as to be capable of interpretation in a way that might cause Irish citizens to be hauled before the Special Criminal Court, declared a terrorist organisation and their activities declared to be terrorist activities. It could greatly affect the constitutional entitlement to free assembly and protest that is part and parcel of our democracy. While I know that is not the Minister's intention, I have that concern.

I hope the Minister will respond to my concern about the looseness of the wording of the directive, in the first instance, and the broadness of the wording of section 4 of the Bill. Will he be willing to accept amendments that would tighten up those sections in order that it will be clear that they are not intended to be a catch-all provision that will enable a future Government to deal harshly with citizens who are, in fact, engaging in normal democratic practices?

I propose to share my time with Deputies Ó Snodaigh and Finian McGrath.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Chair has been notified that Deputy Connolly intends to speak.

It may well be Deputy Connolly.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

It is ten minutes for Deputy Cuffe, ten minutes for Deputy Ó Snodaigh and five minutes each to the two Independent Deputies. Is that agreed? Agreed.

The war on terrorism worries me in the same way that the war on drugs a few years ago and the war on communism worried us. I worry that we will see resources that can be better used in other areas being diverted into a slogan and an endeavour that will divert attention from more fundamental issues that have to be dealt with. In the 1950s the McCarthyite tactics used in the war on communism were good for getting votes and useful for making political decisions to the then Establishment in the United States. More recently, Ronald Reagan during his term of office as President declared a war on drugs that has continued for 20 years.

I do not believe the war on drugs or a war on terrorism can be won. Underlying the war on terrorism is a more difficult issue to address, the fundamental inequalities that exist in the world. By diverting resources to the war on terrorism we will, unfortunately, fuel the fires that allow terrorism to thrive in the first place. Shortly after the events of 11 September 2001 the United States committed itself to establishing a new Department of Homeland Security which is now using billions of dollars of funding which could be better used in other areas. Massive amounts of money are going into the detection of terrorists in towns and cities across the United States. It has reached the point where there are radiation detectors in the New York subway that are stopping patients suffering from particular complaints, for which they have an implant, from using it.

Many resources are going into the war on terrorism. If a scintilla of the activities and funds going into the war on terrorism were diverted into addressing social and economic inequalities around the world, we would cope with the threat of terrorism far more effectively. In a sense, even the preparation and production of a Bill like this distracts us from other issues we should be addressing.

I am concerned about the broad brush definitions used in this Bill. I am concerned at the attempts to define terrorist activity and at the kind of activities that are being used within the relevant Irish legislation. For example, there is a reference to terrorist and terrorist-linked activity within Part 1 of the Second Schedule, and reference is made to the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. I took the trouble of looking up section 14 of that Act, which deals with endangering traffic. Section 14(1) of that Act states:

A person shall be guilty of an offence who intentionally places or throws any dangerous obstruction upon a railway, road, street, waterway or public place or interferes with any machinery, signal, equipment or other device for the direction, control or regulation of traffic thereon, or interferes with or throws anything at or on any conveyance used or to be used thereon.

That would cover throwing a snowball at a bus on a wintry day such as today. It is a very broad and dangerous definition. It could be used against those who walked onto the runway at Shannon Airport and created a shrine with rosary beads and Muslim prayer books. It could be used against any of those who participated in the Reclaim the Streets demonstration of May 2002. It is a very broad definition. I am sure that the current Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform would not abuse the legislation but I do fear that in the wrong hands, the legislation could be used in a draconian manner.

Having taken part in many demonstrations involving non-passive direct action over the years, I worry that it could be used against colleagues past, present and future. I recall a member of the Garda Síochána threatening me with the loss of my American visa when I had the music on too loud at a party. That was an abuse of the then legislation. Thankfully the garda in question did not know that I hold dual citizenship of the US and Ireland. It goes to show that, in the wrong hands, legislation can be abused, and that is a real danger with the Bill before us today.

What was the music?

That was the point at issue actually. Legislation can be abused and we need a much more focused degree of definition. With the rise of anti-globalisation campaigners internationally, there has been a move towards the control of legitimate protest, particularly in states that have moved to the right in recent years or where right of centre parties have been in Government. I worry when that happens, whether it be the control of protesters at the WTO summit in Genoa, protesters trying to protect a national monument from severe damage at Carrickmines or pacifists trying to stop US planes at Shannon Airport. I worry that this legislation could be used in such instances.

Non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties also have concerns about this Bill. It certainly needs to be tightened up on Committee Stage. We see, on the one hand, the push to get anti-terrorism legislation through but, on the other hand, we see other international treaties that we are moving very slowly on. Deputy Costello mentioned the European Convention on Human Rights. I wonder about the undue haste with which this Bill is being pushed forward. There are fairly draconian measures within the legislation and we should slow down and think long and hard before pushing such broad brush legislation through the Oireachtas. As one writer asked in an opinion piece in The Irish Times a few weeks ago, would Nelson Mandela, had he sought sanctuary here, found himself the victim of the Offences against the State Act or, indeed, of this Bill had it been in place at the time? This legislation could be misused in the wrong hands.

I intend to address more of the detail of the Bill on Committee Stage but the first Part of the Bill is a significant concern at this stage. The definition of the Act is so broad it could be used against Fossett's Circus. The definition of "activity" is so broad it could be used against somebody throwing a snowball—

Only for a terrorist purpose.

Only for a terrorist purpose, but the definition of a terrorist purpose in the legislation is also rather broad, and I am not convinced that the Minister has given sufficient time to ensuring that the Bill will not be abused by his successor, perhaps, or by somebody else. My party wants to see significant changes to the proposed legislation. I do not doubt the intent of the Minister or the seriousness of the threat of international terrorism. However, the US is stepping up its plans for a war that may cost in the region of $100 million. If we spent a scintilla of that in addressing the root causes of terrorism in countries that are significantly disadvantaged and underdeveloped, we would do far more to address the threat of terrorism.

I am not alone in criticising this Bill or other anti-terrorism legislation that has been rushed through in the aftermath of 11 September, not only in this country but in many other states in Europe and throughout the world. Many organisations are critical of this rush, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. With this legislative rush, human rights protections are being eroded. Serious damage has been done in other states in terms of freedom of expression, protection of refugees and the laws of war, for instance.

Another negative trend has been allowing the military to commit acts of terrorism in peace time. Such activity is not covered in this Bill and will not be covered, it appears, by the International Criminal Court because some states are looking for an opt out and others are allowing those states to opt out of the International Criminal Court.

Most of the definitions in the Bill are too broad, vague and ill-defined. Tá Sinn Féin ag cur i gcoinne an Bhille seo toisc go bhfuil an Rialtas, d'aon ghnó á dheifriú tríd an Dáil, ainneoin go bhfuil impleachtaí ag an mBille i leith ár gcearta agus ár saoirse. Níor foilsíodh an Bille ach díreach roimh Nollaig agus tá gá le han-chuid dian scrúdú a dhéanamh air. Ba chóir go mbeadh díospóireacht fhada againn air seo agus ní thuigim cén fáth go bhfuil deifir ar an Rialtas an Bille a chur tríd an Teach. Chomhlíon an Rialtas a dhualgas idirnáisiúnta nuair a foilsíodh an Bille roimh deireadh na bliana seo caite.

Cén fáth nach bhfuil an deifir céanna ar an Rialtas Billí eile atá ar chlár an Rialtais a bhrostú? Cá bhfuil an Bille um an Chúirt Choiriúil Idirnáisiúnta? Cá bhfuil na gníomhartha a luadh ins an ath-bhreithniú ar an Offences Against the State Act? Cá bhfuil an deifir chun an coinbhinsiún Eorpach ar chearta an duine a bheith fréamhatha i dhlí na hÉireann? Deirtear go bhfuil sé ag teacht suas ach cén uair a thiocfaidh sé? Cén fáth nach bhfuilimid ag déileáil leis inniu agus cén fáth gur léim an Bille seo thairis?

Tá deifir ar an Rialtas an Bille seo a rith tríd an Dáil. Ba cheart go mbeadh díospóireacht cheart againn, agus go mbeadh am againn labhairt leis na grúpaí éagsúla chun a fháil amach cén fáth go bhfuil buairt orthu faoin mBille agus go bhfuil siad ag iarraidh go gcuirfear moill air. Ba cheart go mbeadh am againn déileáil leis an mBille i gceart agus leis an easpa atá ann, an easpa mhíniú cheart ar Bhillí. The Government wishes to fast-track this Bill but why does it not fast-track the Education (Disabilities) Bill or the Convention on the Protection of Children? Many important Bills need to be fast-tracked.

Sinn Féin has problems with many aspects of this Bill, one of which is its attempts to deal with a definition of terrorism offences or terrorism. This is a problem that many other conventions, protocols and international treaties have tried to tackle. Even the UN terrorism prevention branch cannot suggest a commonly acceptable definition. We need to be careful that we do not go beyond where the United Nations wishes us to be or we impinge on other people's rights.

The UN policy working group on terrorism has cautioned against labelling political opponents or adversaries as terrorists. In the past the label "terrorist" has been used to demonise or de-legitimise different groups and activities. Such activities include protests at WTO meetings or actions carried out at Shannon Airport or in other countries. The mere facts of political objectives, violent action or the destruction of property are insufficient for the purposes of a definition of terrorism.

The Deputy can offer his definition by way of amendment on Committee Stage.

I will do so and reserve my specific points for Committee and Report Stages.

The Bill defines terrorism as an act, defined in Part 1 of the Schedule, undertaken with intent to compel a Government or international organisations. There is no requirement for that act to be violent, target civilians or seek to instil fear, yet an attempt to persuade or pressure the Government to perform, or abstain from performing an act, is what political protest is about.

Hear, hear.

This is a fundamental right of democracy.

I do not think the Deputy has read the Bill.

I have read it three or four times in the short time I was given. If it was to be applied retrospectively, it would label our national heroes, including the Minister's grandfather, Éoin MacNeill, as terrorists.

Leaving aside the difficulty of proving intent, how does one define or estimate serious intimidation, undue compulsion or serious destabilisation? Offences are listed in Part 1 of Schedule 2, endangerment, endangering traffic, non-fatal offences against the person, property damage or obstructing railways—

Is derailing a train a terrorist act?

Can the offences I listed realistically be included in the same category as the offences committed by suicide bombers?

The specific reference to an international organisation in section 4 and other parts of the Bill seems to have been formulated to specifically target the anti-globalisation protesters who have dogged WTO meetings. Do we really want legislation that looks at these radical protests in the same way as the attacks on the twin towers?

Section 5(1) makes the relevant provisions of the Offences Against the State Acts apply. Definitions in sections 5 and 6 are very broad and, like section 4, go beyond the requirements of the Framework Document. It is dangerously unclear as to what constitutes advocacy in section 5(1) or attempting or threatening to engage in section 6(1). Likewise, what constitutes membership, providing assistance or directing an unlawful organisation? These are not defined. Will there be a proscription list? Will it be made public and subject to review?

Under this legislation, even Mahatma Ghandi could have been found to be a terrorist for blocking a railway or road, thus endangering traffic. All that would matter under this legislation is that he blocked the road and intended to convince the British to vacate India. The Catholic workers who engaged in a non-violent symbolic protest at Shannon Airport yesterday could be construed as terrorists for engaging in property damage under section 2 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991, for the purposes of compelling the Government from refraining from an act. While Deputies may agree or disagree as to whether such actions are legitimate, surely we can reach a consensus and agree that the people concerned are not terrorists. This legislation is dangerous in that it also narrows the space for non-violent opposition.

When discussing this Bill, it is essential that all views are carefully listened to and human rights are always at the top of the agenda. There has been a recent tendency to turn our backs on human rights because of certain world events. Legislators should never be bullied or intimidated into supporting legislation that is against the public good in the long term. We should never be forced into knee-jerk reactions to events. Sound legislation is always based on justice, equality and truth from which we can never walk away.

With the global swing to the centre-right, I know it is not fashionable to be in favour of human rights while civil liberties seem to have gone out the window. It is time for cool heads and brave leadership. The last 30 years have proved that we need to be careful and clinical in framing our legislation. We have seen bombs in Dublin resulting in legislation being forced through the Dáil. We have seen shortcuts taken with human rights leading to cases such as those of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven and the Nicky Kelly case. They are a warning to us all of the deep and careful consideration we have to take of this legislation.

The principal purpose of the Bill is to enable effect to be given in our law to the European framework decision on combating terrorism and the international convention against the taking of hostages. The Bill also deals with a number of measures directed at the financing of terrorism.

When we use the word "terrorism", it should always be directed at people and states which deliberately attack civilians with no regard for life or limb. Every state, community and citizen has a right to protect itself or himself or herself when attacked but this should never be used as an excuse to use violence against innocent civilians. We should never be afraid to speak out against states, particularly those in the European Union, which have the brass neck to talk about terrorism, or legislation on terrorism, while their record shows they were involved in collusion, planting bombs in Dublin, blowing up the Rainbow Warrior, or raping or murdering the people of Chechnya or Palestine. We cannot allow states to get away with this type of hypocrisy – they must be challenged.

Debate adjourned.