People considered taking own lives over serving as jurors in gangland cases - Willie O'Dea
A former defence minister has told of being approached by elderly people in tears, as well a constituent who spoke about taking his own life, in order to avoid serving on juries.
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea said his office was "inundated" with visits and calls from residents of Limerick who were "terrified" of the prospect of having to adjudicate on gangland cases.
Speaking at a Fianna Fáil event in Dublin, Mr O'Dea was visibly angry as he attacked Sinn Fein over the party's pledge to repeal the country's anti-terror laws, which would result in the abolition of the Special Criminal Court.
"My office was inundated, inundated, by people coming into me, morning noon and night to be excused from jury service. Everybody in Limerick, from one end to the other, were absolutely terrified out of their wits, of serving on a jury, whether those people would be able to identify them," Mr O'Dea said on Saturday.
"I had elderly people crying in my office. One man told me he'd prefer to commit suicide rather than stay on a jury and have this thing hanging over him for the rest of his life," he added.
Mr O'Dea is a personal friend of the late Jerry McCabe, the detective garda who was was killed in Adare, Co Limerick, in June 1996 during the attempted robbery of a post office van.
Four IRA men, including Pearse McAuley, pleaded guilty to his manslaughter at the Special Criminal Court.
Mr O'Dea also hit out at party leader Gerry Adams and his loyalty to tax cheat and former IRA chief Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who faces up five years in prison for tax fraud.
"Gerry Adams has hit back at the criticisms by saying that the gardai are inadequately resourced - this that and the other. Well Maybe if people like 'Slab' Murphy paid their taxes, people in this country who have been evading their taxes, if they paid their taxes maybe this government and its predecessor would have more money to properly resource the gards."
At the Special Criminal Court yesterday, the three presiding judges said Murphy will be sentenced on February 26 - which is Election Day.