Crackdown on dissidents who supporting crime gangs
Dissident republican activists who provide key back-up support for killer gangs are being targeted by the Government in a fresh crackdown on terrorism.
Three new offences are being created as part of the plan to beef up the State's arsenal to combat the renegades.
Details of the proposed legislation, which were first revealed in the Irish Independent last month, have now been published by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald after she secured approval from the Cabinet.
The move represents the most significant legislative assault on home-grown terrorism by the Government since the highly successful package of measures in the wake of the Omagh bomb atrocity, which killed 29 people in August 1998.
That legislation led to the leader of the group responsible for the Omagh blast, Michael McKevitt, being jailed for 20 years when he became the first dissident to be convicted of directing terrorism.
The proposed new crimes are 'public provocation to commit a terrorist offence', 'recruitment for terrorism' and 'training for terrorism'.
The minister said yesterday the Government intended to do everything in its power to ensure there were no gaps in the law that could be exploited by those, who would inflict terror and mayhem on innocent people at home or abroad.
"There can be no hiding place in a democratic society for those, who encourage, recruit or train others to carry out acts of terrorism and we must never relent in our determination to use all resources at our disposal to root them out," Mrs Fitzgerald added.
Each offence will carry a maximum sentence, if convicted on indictment, of ten years in jail and a substantial fine.
Enacting the legislation will allow Ireland to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism.
The offence of provocation can be committed by anybody, who distributes or communicates a message to the public, with the intention of encouraging, directly or indirectly, a terrorist activity.
This will apply to dissident leaders, who use public orations or interviews, to incite others to break the law on behalf of groups like the New IRA alliance, which incorporates the Real IRA; the Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann.
Summary conviction of this offence in the district court can result in one year's imprisonment and a fine of up to €5,000, or both, and up to 10 years in jail, plus a fine, on indictment.
A suspect can be found guilty of the second offence by recruiting, or attempting to recruit, another to take part in terrorist activity or other offences contained in section 6 of the post-Omagh, Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, 1998.
This section deals with directing the activities of a terrorist organisation and also carries a 10-year jail sentence.
The third offence involves providing instruction or training in the skills of making or using firearms or explosives, nuclear material, biological, chemical or prohibited weapons, or others such as noxious or hazardous substances, knowing that the skills provided are intended to be used for terrorist activity. It also covers training in techniques or methods for terrorist use.
The current terrorist threat level in the North is regarded as severe.