The Irish government is set to renew the Offences Against the State Act (OASA) which allows for a Special ‘non jury’ Criminal Court, internment and other extraordinary powers within the 26 Counties.
The original OASA legislation was introduced in 1939 after the IRA stole most of the Irish (Free State) Army’s munitions in what came to be called ‘The Magazine Fort Raids’ (It was housed in the Phoenix Park, Dublin Magazine fort). The munitions were later virtually all recovered but the De Valera government swiftly introduced special powers and there was a major crackdown on the IRA including the use of internment. Several IRA men were also hanged after being convinced by OASA courts the most notable of these was the then Chief of Staff of the IRA Charlie Kerins. Kerins was executed for the murder of Gardai Detective Denis O’Brien in September 1942. The authors Tim Pat Coogan who has written extensively on the IRA suggests Kerins could have avoided the death penalty but he refused to recoginsie the Court and therefore did not speak in his Defence.
Later on OASA was used again to support the reintroduction of internment in the 26 Counties during the IRA Border Campaign (Operation Harvest) 1956-62.
OASA legislation has been amended progressively over the years most recently after the Omagh Bombing in 1998. The legislation has also been used against organised crime in the 26 Counties since the growth of drug related crime in the 1980s.
OASA (and parallel legislation in the UK) has been criticised by the UNHRC. The Dublin government’s Attorney General was questioned over the issue by the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2000. Renewal of the legislation in the post Good Friday era has also been challenged by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. The concerns by the UNHRC and Rights groups has led to a Judge led review being set up looking at the issue. This is currently ongoing.
Image: Internees Curragh 1956-62 – inset; OASA
Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (1st June 2021)