• January 5, 2011

The Irish government is once again `dragging its feet’ in relation to reviewing Emergency Powers introduced over seventy years ago which allowed for the establishment of Special Courts.

The Offences Against the State Act, first enacted in 1939 and subject to periodic amendment since that time, has already been criticised by both the United Nations and bodies such as Amnesty International.

In August 2003 at its AGM held in Dublin the Celtic League adopted a resolution calling for the provisions of OASA to be rescinded (see text below):

“This AGM:

Expresses concern that the Irish government, which is ostensibly committed to International Human Rights principles, continues to maintain on its statutes the provisions of the Offences Against the State Act.”

However in its core document submitted to a meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture and scheduled for May of this year the Irish government indicates that OASA provisions will be maintained (see section of the text below – the full Irish government submission can be accessed via the pdf file link also below):


“19. In addition to the structure of courts described in the preceding paragraphs, provision for the establishment of special criminal courts is made in article 38.3.1 of the Constitution which states that: “Special Courts may be established by law for the trial of offences in cases where it may be determined in accordance with such law that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the effective administration of justice, and the preservation of public peace and order.” Accordingly, part V of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 authorises the establishment of special criminal courts following a proclamation by the Government, in the terms required by the Constitution, “that the ordinary courts are inadequate to secure the administration of justice and the preservation of public peace and order” and ordering that part V of the Act is to be in force.

20. The Court established in 1972 has always sat as a court of three serving judges, one from each of the High, Circuit and District Courts, sitting without a jury. The Court can act by majority decision but only one decision is pronounced. There is a right of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. In May 2002 a report was published by the Committee to Review the Offences Against the State Act 1939–1998 and Related Matters pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement. A majority of the Committee recommended the retention of the Special Criminal Court. The report remains under consideration of the Government.

21. The decision as to whether a particular case will be prosecuted before the Special Criminal Court is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions who is by law independent of the Government.”

Note: A variety of related links can be found on Celtic News by searching using the initials OASA

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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