LABOUR TD Tommy Broughan yesterday said he defied his party whip to abstain on legislation targeting gangland crime because his "gut feeling" is that very strong measures are required to tackle the "drug-fuelled gang warfare".

Broughan told the Sunday Tribune: "I might have taken stronger measures myself" had he been minister for justice.

He declined to be drawn further on what those measures would be. Broughan was also extremely reluctant to discuss in detail the reasons for his abstention on the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill on Friday, which his party opposed in the Dáil vote.

He stressed his loyalty to Labour and it is clear that the decision to defy the party whip was taken very reluctantly.

However, pressed further, the Dublin North-East deputy said that having finally had a chance to study the bill closely on Thursday night – he had been immersed in other legislation in the previous days – he came to the conclusion that "on balance I agreed with it" and that "I couldn't press the button" to vote against.

"My gut feeling was that I felt the situation on the ground, in areas I'm familiar with, where you have drug-fuelled gang warfare, is so horrific and appalling that very strong measures are necessary," Broughan said.

Gangland figures were "operating with impunity" and their activities were a "threat to the state". The problems are "so dire and such a threat to society" that they "can't be allowed to go on", he said.

Broughan said it was also unfair that some urban areas were "so intimidated" by the activities of these people. Areas in Broughan's own constituency have been impacted by gangland murders.

While strongly emphasising that "Labour is my party", Broughan – who has a reputation as a thoughtful, considered contributor to Dáil debates – said he would like to see changes to the way the Dáil operates that would allow opposition figures have a more genuine participation in policy formation.

"We need to get away from the Westminister model and have a genuine input from TDs rather than [legislation by] diktat from government."