The Defamation and Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bills have become law, after being signed this morning by President McAleese.

Last night, the President met 19 of the 22 members of the Council of State for nearly three hours to discuss whether to refer the two Bills to the Supreme Court to test their constitutionality.

During their passage through the Oireachtas both Bills were the subject of considerable controversy.

Now law, the Defamation Act includes a definition of the crime of blasphemy and provision for its prosecution.

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act introduces new measures against gang crime.

It allows the non-jury Special Criminal Court to try cases involving criminal gangs.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern welcomed the moves, saying the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act would greatly help gardaí to tackle gangs head on.

It is not known what advice President McAleese received from the Council of State last night, but the decision was hers. This morning she decided to sign both pieces of legislation.

However, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the Criminal Justice Act is riddled with legal pitfalls, and is bound to provoke further legal challenge to its constitutionality.