The Government has published the framework for new laws to allow the gardaí to use evidence in court gathered through covert surveillance.

The new law will allow gardai to bug homes, pubs, cars and other areas where criminals may congregate.

Gardaí will need the authorisation of a Chief Superintendent to carry out this type of surveillance for up to 14 days.

Any requests for longer surveillance must be approved by a judge.

This type of surveillance will be permitted only in circumstances where an arrestible offence is suspected and there is a reasonable prospect that the surveillance will be of material assistance and provide evidence for criminal proceedings.

There is also a provision in the proposed legislation, which allows gardaí to maintain confidentiality in relation to the disclosure of information in court where there is a risk to the security of the State, a need to protect witnesses, or protect the surveillance system.

The Minister for Justice said this was a vital piece of law in the fight against gangland crime and that the gardaí already have the sophisticated equipment and operational expertise as part of their undercover police work.

Handgun crack down

In the Dáil this evening Dermot Ahern signalled a crack down on licensed handguns.

Mr Ahern was responding to Opposition criticism of the Government's tackling of organised crime.

Mr Ahern said there had been no legally held hand-guns until a number of judicial decisions in 2004, and that he would not tolerate a proliferation of such weapons.

The murder of Shane Geoghegan in Limerick prompted this evening's private members debate, with Fine Gael calling for new measures to crack down on crime gangs.

The party's Justice Spokesperson, Charlie Flanagan said that by failing to prosecute gangland murders, the Government is failing the victims, failing their families and failing society.

Party colleague Jimmy Deenihan warned that gang crime in Limerick was about to spread out into surrounding areas like his own North Kerry constituency, where he said the Limerick gangs were already in control of the drugs trade.

In response, Mr Ahern promised multi-agency checkpoints including gardaí, customs, social welfare and environment to put 'relentless pressure' on criminal gangs.