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Dearbhail McDonald: Republican support for the rule of law depends on who is accused of breaking it


The Special Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

The Special Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

The Special Criminal Court. Photo: Collins

They thought they would be 'left alone' as part of the peace process - left alone to launder fuel and money, pollute the environment and smuggle all manner of contraband.

Left alone to defraud the exchequer and, if the circumstances require it, kill and maim with the weapons they were meant to put beyond all use under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

What is perhaps more troubling than the expectation among a certain cadre of republicans that they would be left alone (for the sake of peace) is the implicit threat of what they might do - return to subversive crime - if they are not.

Welcome to Republican Justice, the law and order equivalent of a 'pick 'n' mix' where support for the rule of law depends on who is accused of breaking it.

The florid responses by Gerry Adams to the recent conviction, for income tax evasion, of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy is a classic example of the longstanding persecution complex espoused by Sinn Féin when the party's double standards on justice fall for even the slightest hint of scrutiny.

Mr Adams has continually sought to deflect attention away from the fact that Mr Murphy is a legitimately tried and convicted tax evader.

His first line of attack was to criticise the fact that Mr Murphy was tried in the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

This was despite the fact that Mr Murphy challenged the DPP's decision in both the High and Supreme Court without advancing any case to oppose or undermine the decision that the ordinary courts were not adequate to deal with income tax fraud, a non-scheduled or ordinary crime.

The Supreme Court made it abundantly clear that it was "highly likely" the reason why the DPP considered the ordinary courts inadequate "must relate to the connections of Mr Murphy with organisations which are prepared to interfere with the administration of justice".

But you won't hear Mr Adams address those "connections" which make people such as Mr Murphy practically peerless.

Nor will you hear him respond to High Court judge Mr Justice Daniel's Herbert's view that another possible reason the DPP issued a certificate to try Mr Murphy in the Special Criminal Court was a belief he had previously interfered with a jury.

Having ignored the patently obvious reasons why the case was tried in the Special Criminal Court, Mr Adams then proceeded to attack the existence of the non-jury court.

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The court came fully into being in 1972 as a direct response to the Troubles and it has been with us ever since, precisely because of the subversive activities of 'good republicans'.

In an ideal world, we would not need a non-jury court or emergency laws to deal with the threat of subversive crime and terrorism, but you won't hear Mr Adams address those realities.

In a final, mangled gasp, Mr Adams claimed that the Special Criminal Court acknowledged that it didn't have much experience dealing with tax cases and "asked the prosecution to come back with some examples of these types of cases were dealt with in the past".

In fact, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler, who oversees the High Court bail list (and is familiar with all aspects of criminal law) merely asked for examples of sanctions in similar tax cases - presumably to ensure Mr Murphy's sentence is consistent with his peers.


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