Tuesday 6 December 2016

Sinn Féin continues to push for scrapping of criminal court

Published 11/02/2016 | 02:30

Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Sinn Féin's Peadar Tóibín. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Anonymous juries would be "sequestered" into rooms and asked to adjudicate on cases taking place in different cities as part of Sinn Féin's plans to abolish the Special Criminal Court.

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The party has again faced staunch criticism over its proposal to "repeal" the country's most powerful anti-terror laws as gardaí continue to investigate the two cold-blooded murders of recent days.

And the controversy will continue to overshadow the party's election campaign as so-called 'good republican' Thomas 'Slab' Murphy faces sentencing at the juryless court tomorrow.

Speaking at the Sinn Féin offices on Parnell Street in Dublin city, the party's jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín insisted jurors can still be protected if the Special Criminal Court is abolished.

The Meath West TD said those selected to serve on juries could operate from other cities if necessary.

"There are examples whereby juries can be sequestered into another room, be anonymous in scenarios where there are court cases happening," Mr Tóibín said during a launch of plans to boost workers' rights.

"It is possible to have a court case in one city where anonymous juries are then brought to a room in a different city where they overlook court cases as well," he added.

Mr Tóibín reiterated that the use of the court has been criticised by the UN and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

"It is possible and reasonable that citizens who live in a democratic society have a right to a jury court.

"A non-jury court is a significant reduction in those rights and it is not just us who is saying this - it is the UN commission on human rights, Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and politicians from a number of different political parties. It is possible to protect juries. We want to see normal democratic rights upheld and everybody's democratic rights upheld."

But Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson Niall Collins labelled Sinn Féin a "cult" - an accusation that has been levelled at the party on numerous occasions in the past.

Also speaking on the campaign trail yesterday, the Limerick TD said the party was "bereft of any credibility" in relation to its stance on the Special Criminal Court.

"You have to ask Sinn Féin their motivation for that and you've to look at the individuals, the role they have played in various events over the history of this country," Mr Collins said.

"To me and to most people, Sinn Féin are a cult. They are not a political party.

"I think they are bereft of any credibility in regard to their stance on the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act. It shows them up for what they are and people are worried about it."

Mr Collins also brought up the use of so-called 'kangaroo courts' in his attack on Sinn Féin.

These courts were used by the IRA to investigate alleged crimes within the Republican movement.

IRA abuse victims Mairia Cahill and Paudie McGahon claim to have been subjected to such processes.

"They want kangaroo courts but they don't want the Special Criminal Court," Mr Collins told reporters.

"They have zero credibility when it comes to any of these issues."

Sinn Féin's stance on the Special Criminal Court contrasts sharply with the policies of other mainstream parties.

Fine Gael has pledged to set up a second Special Criminal Court by April 4 to deal with a backlog in cases Labour also supports the use of the court also, while Fianna Fáil favours an expansion.

Irish Independent

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