The final stages of the Bill that will expand the role of the Special Criminal Court to deal with gang crime are ongoing in the Seanad.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill was passed by a large majority in the Dáil last Friday.

This afternoon the Seanad passed the second stage of the legislation.

The vote in the upper house was 41 in favour and seven against.

Two further substantial votes on the Bill are due later tonight and it is expected the Bill will be passed.

The Bill will then be sent to President Mary McAleese, who will decide whether to sign it into law.

Speaking on the Bill in the Seanad, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said that he 'would not exclude going further' and that the Oireachtas should not exclude it either.

He said he was not naive enough to think that this will get rid of gangland crime and that the Bill is a measured and proportionate response.

Throughout the evening, the Minister has been dealing with amendments to the bill proposed by Fine Gael, Labour and Independent Senators.

Opposition senators again criticised rushing the Bill through the Upper House.

Senator Frances Fitzgerald said it was no way to handle business, particularly with far reaching legislation.

Rónán Mullen, acting leader of the Independent Group, said the legislation called for extended debate, not rushed debate.

Labour Senator Alex White said that irrespective of what the Seanad does with this legislation, it would not be going back to the Dáil.

Surveillance bill signed into law

The President earlier signed the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act into law.

The new legislation allows gardaí to use evidence obtained by covert surveillance in criminal trials.

For the first time, An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Revenue Commissioners will have a basis in law to carry out covert surveillance to combat serious criminal, subversive or terrorist activity.