Flanagan labelled 'a Blueshirt muckraker'

FINE GAEL justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan was called “a Blueshirt muckraker” by Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh during a debate…

FINE GAEL justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan was called “a Blueshirt muckraker” by Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh during a debate on security legislation.

Mr Flanagan sharply criticised Sinn Féin when he spoke in favour of a motion renewing the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998, which was passed in the wake of the Omagh bombing in August of that year.

He said he was surprised to hear Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin demand that the Act be removed from the statute books.

He wondered if Mr Ó Caoláin had read the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) and its conclusion that “the range and nature of the Real IRA’s activities in the six months were, by any yardstick, a very serious matter” and that its threat was dangerously lethal.


“Of course, Deputy Ó Caoláin’s party also wants the IMC to be wound down,” he added. “How is this justifiable, given the amount of terrorist activity in recent months?”

Mr Flanagan said Sinn Féin’s stance might be put in context by recent reports that the defunct IRA, along with members of Sinn Féin, were responsible for an enormous counterfeiting operation recently uncovered in Laois.

“It is thought that the counterfeiting factory produced tens of millions of euro for Sinn Féin and the IRA before the Garda raid as the notes have spread right across Europe,” he said. “Reports suggest the counterfeiting operation was established to counteract the IRA’s losses when Lehman Brothers collapsed.”

Mr Flanagan said “the grotesque greed and unbridled capitalist appetite of many in the republican movement makes a farce of the pious posturing of Sinn Féin”.

Mr Ó Snodaigh said: “I will not allow the accusation of pious posturing by a Blueshirt muckraker to go unchallenged in the House.

“I have stood here and defended human rights time and again . . . Charles Flanagan’s assertion of Sinn Féin links to a counterfeit operation in his constituency is complete rubbish and falls into the same category of much of the rubbish of his favoured source for the justification of renewing these provisions we are discussing today: it is the IMC – three spooks and a lord – and includes hearsay, gossip and untruths.”

Mr Ó Snodaigh said his party believed, at the time of the signing of the Belfast Agreement, that the Act should be repealed in its entirety. “The powers and provisions that exist in the criminal law are more than sufficient to deal with the crimes and activities of organisations in the length and breadth of the State,” he said.

“I implore all deputies to consider the highly detrimental effects of this legislation on human rights, democratic life and the safety and wellbeing of citizens.”

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said the principal threat to the State’s security continued to be posed by individuals and groups associated with so-called “dissident republicanism”. They might well reflect, he added, that it was a strange kind of republicanism that pursued its aims through the murder of fellow Irish men and women. “For some perverted reason, revealed only to themselves, these groups are determined to destroy the peace that so many have worked so hard to achieve,” he said.

Labour’s Pat Rabbitte said he wondered whether they had reached the stage where the gangs referred to by the Minister no longer had a political label. Serious questions should now be addressed about the annual renewal of the Act, he said.

“Instead of going through this lacklustre and pro forma exercise every June, the Government should by now have decided which, if any, of the sections we are asked to renew every year should become part of the permanent law of the State,” he added.

Sinn Féin failed to get sufficient support to challenge a vote and the motion was passed.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times