Saturday 22 October 2016

Gerry Adams's response to Micheál Martin, writing in the Irish Independent

Published 24/12/2015 | 02:30

Gerry Adams: SF is not alone in its opposition to non-jury courts Photo: Tom Burke
Gerry Adams: SF is not alone in its opposition to non-jury courts Photo: Tom Burke

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, in an opinion piece for the Irish Independent this week once again indulged himself in a tirade against me and Sinn Féin.

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I have made it very clear that everyone has a duty to make sure their tax affairs are in order. There can be no equivocation about this, whether it involves a multi-national company, a newspaper owner or a farmer.

Micheál Martin takes particular issue with my criticisms of the Special Criminal Court.

The views of Sinn Féin relating to the Court are well known and we have been unequivocal in our opposition to the existence and operation of the non-jury Special Criminal Court. Pointing out the circumstances of the Special Criminal Court trying a case for a failure to complete tax returns is a legitimate criticism I am entitled to make.

The Fianna Fáil leader's claim to lead "the Republican party" is exposed by his lack of understanding of the meaning of the term 'Republican'. Republicans believe in the fundamental rights of citizens to a fair trial and equality before the law.

The right to a trial by one's peers has always been a cornerstone of Republican ideology. It was a core demand and outcome of the 1789 French Revolution and has been a hallmark of just legal systems for centuries.

There is no place for special courts in a modern, democratic society. Micheál Martin clearly does not share that view. Sinn Féin is not alone in its opposition to the use of non-jury Courts. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have also criticised the continued existence of the Special Criminal Court. The former President, Mary Robinson, has also voiced her concerns.

Furthermore, there is an onus on the Irish and British Governments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which was endorsed by the vast majority of people on this Island, to work towards the normalisation of policing and security matters, both North and South.

On the issues of cross-border crime, the Fianna Fáil leader ignores the reality of Sinn Féin's position on all of these matters. Our party has stood up to criminals and in support of citizens and communities. For that, some of us have received death threats.

In February of this year, Frank McCabe Jnr, the son of a Sinn Féin member, suffered serious injuries as a result of a bomb explosion outside the family home.

Conor Murphy MLA and other party members have received threats from the same criminals, and have been attacked and had their cars burnt out and homes attacked. The reason they have been targeted is that they have stood up to criminality and called on members of the community to co-operate with the authorities. They have my full backing.

Under the recent 'Fresh Start Agreement', a new cross-border taskforce is being established to combat cross-border crime. On Monday, Martin McGuinness, along with Peter Robinson, attended a meeting with the British and Irish Governments to discuss the implementation of the new body. Sinn Féin fully supports its establishment. It came into existence not least because of Sinn Féin initiatives.

If we had listened to Micheál Martin when he called recently for the suspension of the Good Friday Agreement's political institutions then none of this progress would have been made.

Micheál Martin and other merchants of spin have contrived a narrative that Sinn Féin's criticism of non-jury courts is an attempt to undermine the institutions of the State. Nothing could be further from the truth. The job of legislators is not just to make new laws, but to repeal bad ones in the interest of citizens.

The continued existence of the Special Criminal Court denies citizens their human rights. In modern times, we have witnessed the introduction of marriage equality and divorce, both positive measures that have repealed constitutional bans on the ability of citizens to be treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the State. The laws banning these rights were bad laws.

Those, including Sinn Féin, who campaigned against them, were not against the rule of law any more than those opposed to the Special Criminal Court.

Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President, TD for Louth

New apartment standards

I am disappointed at the announcement by Minister Alan Kelly regarding design standards and minimum apartment sizes.

Over the last 20 years, local authorities such as Dublin City Council have been attempting to improve the design and construction of our housing and the Minister's announcement undoes much of this good work.

There is no evidence that the Minister's guidelines will result in any reduction in the cost of apartments for the consumer; but will only result in a lowering of the quality of life for residents.

These guidelines will not help to create sustainable communities, enable lifelong accommodation or offer viable alternatives to Ireland's problem of low-density, suburban sprawl.

Mr Kelly is also incorrect in stating that Ireland has some of the most generous space standards in Europe.

Housing is not rocket science but a relatively straightforward endeavour, at least for the majority of our European neighbours.

If the Government is serious about reducing the cost of housing it should look at cutting local authority development levies and associated costs.

The amendments to the building regulations process by Phil Hogan has also added a huge amount of cost and paperwork with, unfortunately, limited, if any, benefit to the consumer.

A proper system of land tax would incentivise developers to build and not hoard land. Dublin City Council's recent Vacant Land Levy is a positive step.

The Government could further incentivise the refurbishment of derelict and semi-derelict buildings and brown-field sites through the tax system, and introduce a reduced VAT rate for working with protected structures.

Enforcing building regulations, along with a proper housing strategy, which does not rely on the gimmicks of prefab housing, is key.

The Minister would be wise to mind the interests of citizens in the run-up up to a general election.

Stephen Mulhall, Lecturer, School of Architecture, UCD, Dublin

Irish Independent

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