Government to extend law on offences against the State

The Government has renewed offences against the State legislation because of the continued threat of paramilitary activity and gangs.

The Cabinet agreed to extend the legislation for another 12 months at its weekly meeting yesterday.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan secured approval to put the extension to the Dáil and Seanad by June 30.

He told colleagues he sought the renewal as he considers that there remains a “substantial threat” from terrorist activity, in particular from dissident republican paramilitary groups.

Over the past 12 months, the paramilitary crime task force of the PSNI has carried out in excess of 200 searches resulting in more than 50 arrests, the Cabinet was told.

The legislation is also being extended because paramilitary groups are involved in serious criminality and are linked inextricably to organised crime gangs, Mr Flanagan told colleagues.

Also at the meeting, Health Minister Simon Harris shared details on the State’s planned medical cannabis programme.

Health Minister Simon Harris

Health authorities have recommended that medical cannabis can be administered “in a limited number of clearly defined medical conditions”, where patients have failed to respond to other treatments.

Patients using it will have to be under the direct supervision of a medical consultant. Conditions where it can be administered under the programme include spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, as well as severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy. The Cabinet-agreed guidelines for the programme will be published shortly.

The HSE is to establish and maintain a register to facilitate the programme and work is continuing in relation to the sourcing of suitable quality-controlled, affordable cannabis-based products for patients, according to a spokeswoman for Mr Harris.

The Cabinet also heard the first steps in setting up a €1.5bn rainy day fund will be taken.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will publish a bill shortly to begin the fund, which will see annual contributions of €500m going into the pot. It is being set up to prepare for any shocks to the economy or State funds and was a promise made in the programme for government.

Mr Donohoe told Cabinet colleagues that creating the fund will help Ireland build vital economic resilience, and that legislation for it will be progressed as soon as possible.

The Cabinet was also given an update on Brexit negotiations ahead of an EU leaders’ summit next month. Ireland maintains the other states remain supportive of its position and the need for “substantial” progress to be made on the border issue — if negotiations on Britain leaving the EU are to continue in advance of an October deadline.

A spokesman for Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: “Our position remains the same, substantial progress on the Irish backstop [position] by June.”

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