President signs controversial Bills into law

President Mary McAleese today signed into law two controversial new Bills dealing with gangland criminals and blasphemy.

President Mary McAleese today signed into law two controversial new Bills dealing with gangland criminals and blasphemy.

After convening the Council of State to debate their legality, she decided they are constitutional and should not be referred to the Supreme Court.

The two Bills in question are the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 and the Defamation Bill 2006, which were rushed through the Oireachtas in the weeks before the summer recess.

Civil liberties groups, some of the country’s top lawyers and leading media figures have raised serious concerns about the two pieces of legislation.

More than 130 lawyers wrote a public letter demanding that the Criminal Justice Bill be withdrawn, claiming Ireland would be shamed by it in the eyes of the international community.

It allows for gangland suspects to be tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court and also paves the way for “opinion evidence” from Garda members to be used in court.

Meanwhile, the Defamation Bill, which reforms the State’s libel laws, provoked an outcry over its inclusion of a charge of blasphemous libel, with opponents complaining it would open the doors for a wave of lawsuits.

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