Monday 20 November 2017

SF voters want to keep Special Criminal Court

Almost half Gerry Adams' supporters are in favour of non-jury court that convicted Slab

COURT PROCEEDINGS: The Special Criminal Court will decide on Murphy’s sentence for tax fraud on election day. Photo: PA
COURT PROCEEDINGS: The Special Criminal Court will decide on Murphy’s sentence for tax fraud on election day. Photo: PA
Gerry Adams has plans to abolish the non-jury Special Criminal Court. Photo:
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Almost half of Gerry Adams' own voters are against the Sinn Fein leader's controversial plan to abolish the Special Criminal Court, according to a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.

More than two thirds of those polled are against the abolition of the non-jury court, which hears cases involving gangland criminals and terrorists.

A mere 13pc of people are in favour of getting rid of the Special Criminal Court and almost one-in-five said 'don't know' or 'it depends' when asked about abolishing the court.

Mr Adams has been at the centre of a political storm after he reaffirmed his commitment to abolishing non-jury courts in the wake of the Special Criminal Court conviction of former IRA chief Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.

However, the majority of the Sinn Fein leader's voters do not share his view on the court which will this Friday - General Election day - decide on Murphy's sentence for tax fraud.

The poll shows 49pc of Sinn Fein voters oppose abolition while less than a third are in favour of removing non-jury courts from the legal system. The survey interviewed 1,065 people between February 17 and 18.

The findings are sure to cause concern for Mr Adams who spent the first week of the General Election campaign defending his proposal to abolish the court.

The poll also shows more than a third of voters believe Sinn Fein will be the 'least effective' party in tackling gangland crime.

Following the escalation in gangland violence in Dublin, some 34pc of voters polled by Millward Brown said they believe Sinn Fein would be the 'least effective' party at tackling gangland crime if in government.

And 4pc of Sinn Fein's own voters said they believe the party would be 'least effective' at tackling crime. Asked which party they believe would be 'most effective' at tackling crime, one in five said Sinn Fein (20pc) and the same percentage replied Fine Gael (20pc).

On this question, the Labour Party polled worst with just 3pc of voters saying Tanaiste Joan Burton's party was the 'most effective' at tackling crime, while 18pc said Fianna Fail.

Gangland crime has been a central issue during the election campaign after the daylight murder of David Byrne in the Regency Hotel in Dublin by a gang of heavily armed raiders dressed as gardai.

The murder was followed by the retaliation killing of Edward 'Neddy' Hutch - the brother of the infamous underworld figure Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch.

The funerals of both men were held this week amid calls for an end to the gang war.

After the violence erupted on Dublin's streets, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald promised no expense would be spared in hunting down the killers.

Ms Fitzgerald also pledged more resources for a new armed rapid response unit for Dublin City Centre. However, the plan was met with criticism from garda representative bodies which claimed the move would not involve new recruits.

All the main political parties have committed to increasing Garda manpower if elected. Fine Gael said it will increase it to 14,000 members in five years, Sinn Fein is aiming for 14,250 and Fianna Fail set its goal for 15,000 gardai.

Sinn Fein said it will reopen all the Garda stations closed by the Coalition, while Fianna Fail will ask the Garda Inspectorate to examine the impact of the closure of 139 stations.

Mr Adams has also pledged to repeal the Offences Against the State Act, which is a central piece of legislation in tackling terrorism and gangland crime.

The commitment is outlined in Sinn Fein's election manifesto but does not detail what the legislation would be replaced with.

Rural crime has also featured heavily in election manifestos following the epidemic of burglaries in rural Ireland in recent years.

Most parties have pledged crackdowns on roving crime gangs terrorising rural communities and there has also been an emphasis on protecting older people.

Sunday Independent

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