The legislation to renew the Special Criminal Court was signed into law by the Seanad last night with just hours to go before it lapsed.The court was set up to allow non-jury trials for cases involving terrorism, and has been criticised by human rights groups.
Sinn Féin deputies agreed to abstain from the vote on its renewal in the Dáil for the first time after a review of the court was promised.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the court is still needed to handle cases involving serious organised crime.
Ms McEntee said: “The ongoing gang related feuds in Dublin and next to me in my own consitutency, Drogheda, have brought into focus the depravity in which they operate.
“These feuds have resulted in appalling and barbaric murders that have shocked the country.
The Justice Minister said “substantial” garda resources have been deployed to areas with serious organised crime problems that have brought “significant convictions” and “ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition.”
The minister added: “There is stark evidence of the willingness of organised groups to engage in murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, drug smuggling, counterfeiting and other serious offences.
“As public representatives, we have witnessed its devastating impact on our communities.
“It is clear that these groups have no respect for the laws of this land nor the safety of its citizens.
“By their behaviour, they demonstrate a callous disregard for everything that a stable and democratic society stands for.”