There have been 68 gangland murders since 2009, with "growing and inextricable links" between paramilitary groups and organised crime, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.
She said 29 suspected gang members have been arrested under radical laws to tackle organised crime in Ireland.
Highlighting the continuing threat from republican splinter groups, she said there were 30 terrorist-related attacks in the North last year and five so far this year.
In the South, Ms Fitzgerald said paramilitaries were behind a €10m forged currency racket, an improvised explosive device and attempted gun attack.
The new justice minister was speaking in the Dáil, where she was introducing motions to renew two sets of emergency legislation aimed at combating paramilitary and organised crime.
She said the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 was brought in at a time when the “entire justice system was under serious threat” and gangs were behaving as if they were “untouchable”.
Under the law specific organised crime offences — new crimes created under the act — are sent to the non-jury Special Criminal Court. This was to remove the possible intimidation of jurors.
The legislation created new offences of directing a criminal organisation and participating or contributing to a criminal organisation.
“Members of the House may wish to note that, since 2009, there have been 68 murders linked to organised crime,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “We are also faced with the reality that there are growing and inextricable links between paramilitary groups and organised crime.”
She said that, between June 2013 and May 2014, there have been 29 arrests under the act.
“Charges have resulted in a number of cases including murder, possession of firearms, burglary and handling of stolen property,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
She said the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998 — introduced in the wake of the Omagh bombing — continued to be necessary. The legislation allows the courts to draw inferences in certain circumstances and brought in offences of directing an unlawful organisation, the possession of certain articles and collecting information. It also extended the maximum detention period from 48 to 72 hours.
“During 2013 there were a total of 30 terrorist-related attacks in Northern Ireland and there have been five so far this year,” she told the Dáil.
“This includes such serious incidents as the planting of a bomb in a Belfast shopping centre in the run-up to Christmas last year and the fire-bombing of a hotel in Derry on May 30 where continuing scant regard for human life and the targeting of civilians was clearly demonstrated.”
She said dissidents also posed a threat south of the border: “By way of example, let me point to the discovery by An Garda Síochána of an estimated €10m in partially forged bank notes in April this year, the detection of a large improvised explosive device in Co Louth, possibly destined for Northern Ireland in May last and the disruption of a Real IRA gun attack in Tallaght earlier this month.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved