By Andrew Phelan
Saturday July 11 2009
THE DAIL has passed tough new laws that will give gardai and the courts greater powers in tackling gangland crime.
The legislation, which will expand the role of the Special Criminal Court, was voted in by an overwhelming majority.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the Bill was needed in the aftermath of the murder of Roy Collins in Limerick. He said this killing was "an attack on the people, the State and the criminal justice system".
On the last day of the Dail, TDs voted in favour of the legislation by 118 to 23. Fine Gael voted in favour along with Fianna Fail, with Labour and Sinn Fein against.
However, Dublin North East Labour TD Tommy Broughan broke ranks by abstaining.
He explained: "In the dire and urgent circumstances of drug-fuelled gangland crime, some of the provisions in the Bill are necessary."
The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2009 provides for secret court sittings, creates new offences of organising crime, allows gardai to give opinion evidence on gang membership, and will send underworld syndicate trials to the Special Criminal Court.
More than 130 lawyers opposed the legislation saying ti would cause Ireland to be "shamed" at the UN and European Court of Human Rights.
- Andrew Phelan