IT may surprise some people that emergency anti-terrorist measures have been renewed for another year, more than 20 years after the cessation of violence in Northern Ireland.
The legislation, which provides for the non-jury Special Criminal Court, and has to be approved annually by the Oireachtas, was put in place after 29 people were killed in the Omagh bombing in 1998. While the measure is also used to combat the intimidation of witnesses by criminal gangs, it continues to address the ongoing threat of terrorism.
Charlie Flanagan, then justice minister, told the Oireachtas that the 1998 Offences against the State (Amendment) Act is a “robust and proportionate response to those who choose the bullet over the ballot box”.
He said the Garda assessment is that the threat level in Northern Ireland from republican paramilitary groups is “severe” and the groups remain “wedded to brutality and criminality”.
In other words, as Gerry Adams once put it in relation to the Provisional IRA: “They haven’t gone away, you know.”