Omagh terrorist laws to be renewed after McKee killing

Lyra McKee.

Strict anti-terrorism laws imposed in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing are still needed because of the threat of dissident republicans and Lyra McKee’s murder, the Cabinet will be told today.

At a private meeting this morning, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will say the wide-reaching rules imposed 20 years ago must continue to be supported and signed into law for another year.

During the Government’s weekly Cabinet meeting, Mr Flanagan will tell ministers that the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1998, and the Criminal Justice Act, 2009, need to be renewed due to the ongoing security problems in Ireland.

The 1998 law was introduced in the wake of the Omagh bombing, while the 2009 law was part of a bid to address the growth of dissident republican and serious gangland threats in the country’s cities.

The 1998 law allows for people to be charged with directing an unlawful organisation, training people to illegally use guns, and for “inferences to be drawn” from refusing to answer questions.

The 2009 law gives gardaí more powers to combat organised crime and to try defendants in the Special Criminal Court. Due to the strict powers allowed under the laws, the legislation governing them must be renewed every 12 months, with the deadline for this year running out in late June.

The Irish Examiner understands Mr Flanagan will specifically tell Cabinet today that the “real and persistent” risk of dissident republican violence means the laws must be extended.

He is expected to reference the killing last month of Ms McKee, the car bombing in Derry last July, and ongoing operations to underline his point. Meanwhile, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is expected to ask Cabinet for permission to create a “parenting unit” in her department.

Independent TD Ms Zappone will say the move is needed as part of an implementation plan for her First Five plan to help families in the first five years of children’s lives. The plan was announced last autumn.

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