Jim Cusack: Attack on court comes amid fears over witness safety
Gerry Adams's attack on the Special Criminal Court and his support for Provo boss Thomas 'Slab' Murphy comes amid growing concern over witness intimidation and interference in cases in the Border area.
In all instances, the cases involved figures associated with the IRA's massive organised criminal empire based in south Armagh. This has been allowed to flourish under the 'Peace Process', with many people seeing it as resulting from a 'blind eye' policy by the British and Irish governments to IRA criminality.
IRA intimidation of witnesses led to the establishment of the current Special Criminal Court in the early 1970s at the height of a campaign that claimed the lives of 12 gardaí.
The old Special Court in Green Street, Dublin, was bombed in July 1976 when the IRA organised the breakout of prisoners, including the bomb maker James 'Mortar' Monaghan, who subsequently went on to achieve notoriety after he was arrested in Colombia while training the terrorist group Farc in August 2001.
In February 1976, a letter bomb was sent to the home of Special Court judge Denis Pringle, a day before he was to hear a major case against the IRA.
The growth in the number of cases - in both terrorist and 'ordinary' organised crime categories - and the evidence of intimidation in Border areas has led the Government to finally agree to the establishment of a second non-jury court to expedite and secure safe hearings.
In one instance, it is known the IRA were able to use a mole within the Garda to interfere with evidence, and this is now under investigation. The suspect has retired from the force.
Mr Adams's attack on the Special Criminal Court was probably a 'calculated' political decision, one republican source said yesterday. "He knows there will be a backlash but you will hear a lot of 'whataboutery' out of him now - like 'what about the millionaires and dodgy bankers who weren't prosecuted?', that kind of thing. That's what he's at," one source said.
Mr Adams's attack on the court and his buddying up to Thomas Murphy has caused disgust among gardaí.
The Sinn Féin President's statement came just two days after the anniversary of the IRA's murder of trainee Garda Gary Sheehan and Army Private Patrick Kelly, a former senior Garda pointed out yesterday.