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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 5 Feb 2003

Vol. 560 No. 4

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

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

Acting Chairman

Deputy Finian McGrath is in possession and he has seven minutes remaining.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Paudge Connolly.

Acting Chairman

That is agreed.

Section 4 refers to terrorist activity but that should not include peaceful political activities or protests about issues that are wrong in our society such as poverty, abuse of the rights of children and disabled people and the proposed war in Iraq. Attempts are now being made to suppress this type of protest and we should all be on our guard to ensure this legislation does not wipe out all the civil liberties many of us have fought for over many years. Let us always remind ourselves of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.

I have major concerns about section 13(1) dealing with the convention and the physical protection of nuclear materials. As far as I am concerned, any state with nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction is a terrorist threat. They should all be hauled before the United Nations and the UN inspectors. They should be disarmed and the people involved in protests against these states should be commended and supported by all of us. Under no circumstances should these type of protests be linked to terrorist activities and I challenge the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, and the Minister for Defence, Deputy Smith, to stop using the spin in the debate on the recent media coverage. That old style of politics will not fool the people.

The recent Shannon experience should be a wake-up call for all of us in terms of elements in the media and in political circles. It is a bit rich for Ministers and TDs to make a big deal about the protests at Shannon when they appear to have no problem supporting the proposed bombing of civilians. Five hundred thousand people could be massacred in the next month and that is nothing short of terrorism as far as many people are concerned.

Situations like that should always be mentioned in debates on legislation on terrorism. The events of 11 September, the terrible suffering of the victims' families and the subsequent deaths of civilians in Afghanistan should never be forgotten. We should not be selective in our condemnation and our opposition to the slaughter of civilians and many of us will be on the side of those with a particular interest in human rights. Compassion, justice and fair play must be at the top of the political agenda when dealing with this type of legislation.

I welcome the Minister's comments yesterday on the anti-apartheid and anti-globalisation movements that changing society or campaigning on issues is not against the law. I hope the Minister will accept amendments that will ensure public safety and protection of human rights.

International terrorists use a blend of old and new tactics to further their strategic aims. Assassinations, hijackings and bombings continue to be the staple methods. A growing percentage of terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many people as possible. In the 1990s, a terrorist incident was almost 20% more likely to result in death or injury than an incident two decades ago. Thwarted attacks in 1993 against New York City infrastructure, including plans to bomb the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, were also intended to cause mass casualties. In 1995 in the Philippines, authorities uncovered a terrorist plot to bring down 11 US airliners in Asia.

Exploiting modern technology, these groups have used video cameras for training and reconnaissance purposes and computers to store files. Terror groups have adapted quickly to the Internet, exploiting it as a tool to further their legitimacy. Use of this medium continues to evolve. In the future, it may offer a more lucrative target for disruption and destruction as the global economy becomes increasingly dependent on web commerce.

It is incumbent on Governments to take steps to protect society from criminal acts and to bring those responsible to justice in the course of proceedings which meet with international standards of fairness. However, measures taken in the immediate aftermath of atrocities are rarely effective in achieving this goal. History has shown that they frequently lead to miscarriages of justice and undermine public confidence in the rule of law.

The multi-million dollar blank cheque given to the Bush administration to combat terrorism in the wake of the 11 September catastrophe raises questions about how wisely such resources will be spent. The fight against terrorism has been the justification for a series of controversial policies including tougher immigration laws, high military and intelligence budgets, restrictions on civil liberties and sanctions against rogue states.

The offence of money laundering has gained considerable ground over the past 20 years and this Bill seeks to address the problems in so far as it relates to terrorist funds. Money laundering is an insidious crime at best.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.