Gerry Adams is unfit for office
Published 27/12/2015 | 02:30
The attack by the Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams on the Special Criminal Court and, by extension, the entire criminal justice system, represents a fundamental threat to one of the pillars of the State. As such, it must lead to the conclusion that neither Mr Adams nor Sinn Fein is fit to govern a State, one of the pillars of which they seek to undermine.
In defence of his reaction to the trial and conviction of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who was previously found by a jury of his peers to be a Provisional IRA commander and to be heavily involved in criminal activities, Mr Adams has said he does not have to "swallow the entire baggage of a State" that is dependant on the Offences against the State Act.
To the growing litany of disturbing views the Sinn Fein president has vented in recent times - from his defence of the treatment meted out by the Provisional IRA to sexual abuse victims to his dismissal of authoritative reports which have confirmed that IRA criminal activity continues - his expressed views on legislation underpinning the Special Criminal Court and in defence of his alliance with a man like Thomas 'Slab' Murphy are profoundly disquieting indeed.
The proper administration of justice must be protected from threats which undermine it, including threats arising from subversive groups within society, from organised crime and the dangers of intimidation of jurors.
Shortly after the Troubles in Northern Ireland began in 1972, the Government here exercised its power to make a proclamation under the Offences against the State Act 1939, which led to the establishment of the Special Criminal Court for the trial of certain offences. Although the court was initially set up to handle terrorism- related offences, in recent times it has been handling more organised-crime cases, such as the trial of members of the drugs gang which murdered Veronica Guerin and, more recently, of notorious crime gangs in Limerick.
The trial of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy for tax evasion in the Special Criminal Court was, in the first instance, certified by the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the name of the people. The DPP's office is itself an independent pillar of the criminal justice system.
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy brought a case to the High Court and, on appeal, to the Supreme Court, seeking to have his trial heard in a court other than the Special Criminal Court. As such, he had exercised his rights in the two highest courts in the land and those courts vindicated the decision of the DPP that his case be heard in the Special Criminal Court.
It is a little-known fact that in the six years up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, a total of 152 people were indicted before the Special Criminal Court: 48 pleaded guilty, 72 were convicted, 15 were acquitted and 17 had nolle prosequi entered.
So the insinuation, implicit in Mr Adams' comments, that Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was somehow subjected to a less fair trial in the Special Criminal Court than he would have received before a jury does not stand up to scrutiny and, as such, represents an abhorrent slur on the entire criminal justice system. If anything, in fact, Thomas 'Slab' Murphy's rights were better protected by a bench of three impartial judges, who are less vulnerable to improper external influence, than might otherwise be the case.
The same burden of proof must be discharged in the Special Criminal Courts as in the ordinary criminal courts; that is proof of guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. It is beyond all reasonable doubt that Thomas 'Slab' Murphy - "a good republican" according to Mr Adams - criminally evaded the payment of his taxes.
It is our view, from the reaction of Gerry Adams to this conviction, that it is now also beyond all reasonable doubt the Sinn Fein leader is wholly unfit for high office in this State.