[Sinn Fein]

25th June 2003

Labour support for repressive laws a kick in the teeth

Sinn Fein spokesperson on Justice and Equality Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has this evening described the Labour Party decision to support the Government's renewal of draconian laws under the Offences Against the State Act as a ``kick in the teeth'' to civil liberties, human rights and the Good Friday Agreement. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said it was a ``disgraceful'' decision that allowed Minister McDowell to claim cross-party support for measures that are constantly abused by the forces of the State.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said: ``The Labour Party's support for the retention of a raft of allegedly temporary extensions of powers under the Offences Against the State Acts is a kick in the teeth not only to civil liberties and human rights but to the Good Friday Agreement itself. Under the Good Friday Agreement the apparatus of state repression on both sides of the border was to be dismantled. Central to this was the need to rid this state of the Offences Against the State Acts. This draconian legislation has been much abused by the forces of the state to intimidate and harass people engaged in open, legal and democratic political activity as well as people with no political involvement at all.

``The Labour Party would rightly rail against these measures including extended detention without charge, the removal of the right to silence and guilt by association, if they were introduced or used in third world countries. Instead, with Labours consent, they are to become the norm in Ireland.

``For his part, the Minister failed in either his opening or closing remarks to provide any evidence to justify the extension of these laws. That the Labour Party supported him in that is absolutely disgraceful. This now allows the Minister, who is avowedly against a rights based society, to claim cross-party support for this attack on civil and human rights. Those few who voted against the Government and for the protection of civil rights are to be commended.'' ENDS

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