'Slab' terror court here to stay, Adams warned
Published 24/12/2015 | 02:30
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has launched a robust defence against Gerry Adams's attack on the Special Criminal Court, saying he should know "better than most" why it is needed.
Over the past week the Sinn Féin leader has sought to undermine the non-jury court as he championed former IRA godfather and tax cheat Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.
And in a letter to today's Irish Independent, he writes that there is "no place for special courts in a modern, democratic society".
However, in her most strident defence of the judicial system to date Ms Fitzgerald said it existed because of "the legacy, and Gerry Adams would know this better than most, of paramilitaries and terrorists in relation to organised crime and cross-border activities".
The minister said she could not comment on the Murphy case but said the Special Criminal Court was established "for very good reasons".
"We can't have a situation where people would be able to exploit the power they might have in relation to the situation previously," she told the Irish Independent.
"Let's make no mistake, there is an ongoing need for the Special Court. But we carry out yearly reviews.
"Let's hope that we can arrive at the point where that review shows there is no longer intimidation of communities or witnesses feeling forced to change their stories."
And she added that, despite the controversy over recent days, she intended to press ahead with plans to set up a second Special Criminal Court to deal with a backlog of cases. The next available date for the hearing before the existing court is mid-2017.
Murphy, who is reputed to have been IRA chief of staff, is to be sentenced on tax-dodging charges on February 12.