The main body of counter-terrorism legislation in Ireland is the Offences against the State Acts 1939-1998.
These Acts were introduced and have been primarily used to counter the threat posed by the IRA in all its manifestations, including, latterly, the dissident republican terrorist organisations of the so-called Real IRA and Continuity IRA. The Offences against the State Acts provide for a range of terrorist-related offences, with maximum court-imposed sentences varying according to the specific offence.
International terrorism continues to be a serious threat to international peace and security including, in particular, the security of the European Union, its Member States and the lives of its citizens and its residents, both inside and outside the Union.
The responsibility of combating international terrorism lies primarily with individual Member States and Ireland has a number of legislative measures in place to deal with this threat.
While the Offences Against the State Act 1939 and its subsequent amendments was primarily introduced to deal with terrorism from a domestic perspective its provisions can be applied in an international context.
The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 was introduced in order to further enhance the State’s response to international terrorism. This Act gives effect to a number of international instruments directed to terrorism and meets commitments which the State has undertaken as part of the European Union and the broader international community, including the United Nations.
The 2005 Act also amends Irish law and, in particular, the Offences against the State Acts, to address the problem of international terrorism in a domestic context.
Specifically, Section 5 of the 2005 Act provides that a terrorist group that engages in, promotes, encourages or advocates the commission, in or outside the State, of a terrorist activity is an unlawful organisation within the meaning and for the purposes of the 1939-1998 Acts. Accordingly, the Offences against the State Acts now apply with any necessary modifications and have effect in relation to such terrorist groups.
New types of risks
The trends, means and patterns of terrorism and radicalisation are in a constant state of evolution. The relatively recent phenomena of “lone wolf” attacks, foreign fighters and the impact of international conflicts present new types of risks, while the communication and radicalising potential of the Internet and social media also present new aspects to an increasingly diverse issue.
International best practice
International best practice in this area suggest that combating the terrorist threat should involve not just traditional security and legislative responses but also the development of an understanding of the factors which motivate individuals to embrace radical or extremist ideologies.
In that context the Department contributes to the development of European and International Policy in this area arising from Ireland’s membership of various international institutions and bodies such as the Council of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the UN, its support for An Garda Síochána and the development of relations with other relevant sectors.