Tuesday 21 November 2017

Sinn Fein seeks to repeal most-powerful anti-gangland laws - despite two murders in four days

Gerry Adams wants not only abolish the Special Criminal Court but also the laws which govern membership of illegal organisations, kangaroo courts and intimidation of the president

Gerry Adams. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Gerry Adams. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Sinn Fein wants to repeal the country’s most powerful anti-terror laws despite the two cold-blooded murders in Dublin.

As news agencies across Europe and even the US report on the rising gang tensions in the capital, Gerry Adams proposed to not only abolish the Special Criminal Court but also the legislation which outlaws membership of illegal organisations, intimidation of the president  and among other serious offences, the establishment of kangaroo courts.

And astonishingly Mr Adams could not provide journalists with any idea of what legislation he would introduce instead to maintain law and order.

Page 46 of Sinn Féin’s manifesto, which was launched in the Royal Irish Academy today, contains a single sentence on the plan, stating: “We will repeal the Offences Against the State Acts.”

According the Department of Justice these Acts have been primarily used to counter the threat posed by the IRA in all its manifestations, including, latterly, the dissident republican terrorist organisations of the so-called Real IRA and Continuity IRA.

Read more: 'Saturation policing' - Frances Fitzgerald to set up new, permanent armed response unit in wake of gangland murders

Members of the Gardai during a checkpoint on Sheriff Street, Dublin today. Photo: gareth chaney Collins
Members of the Gardai during a checkpoint on Sheriff Street, Dublin today. Photo: gareth chaney Collins

They provide for a range of terrorist-related offences, with maximum court-imposed sentences varying according to the specific offence.

However, Mr Adams and his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted now was the time to remove the laws from the statute books.

Both politicians made lengthy speeches at the election manifesto launch where they talked of the outrage caused by the Regency Hotel murder and the retaliation attack last night in Ballybough.

The second murder, in which Eddie Hutch Snr was shot dead, occurred in Ms McDonald’s constituency of Dublin Central.

“People in my constituency want to see, first of all, those who behave like thugs and gangsters to be apprehended. Find them.

“And when you find them make them face the full rigours of the law, in a court of law, sentence them – and I can’t speak for the people in my constituency but I think most of them would agree with my sentiment which is lock them up and throw the key away,” she said.

Read more: Streets of fear: Pictures emerge of Eddie Hutch Snr's bullet ridden home after fatal shooting

Mr Adams  said the attacks had been “carried out by thugs”.

“The vast majority of people are decent and law-abiding, mean no harm to anyone and deserve the very best protection from the State and An Garda Siochana,” he said.

But astonishing both then went on to justify their plan to do away with non-jury courts and a series of other anti-gang laws.

Asked repeatedly what he would replace the Offences Against the State Act with Mr Adams replied: “The normal rule of law.”

However, he refused to explain what his vision of the ‘normal rule of law’ is.

Read more: In Profile: Two generations of Hutch crime dynasty

Ms McDonald said it served no purpose for their to be “party political sniping or worse still political opportunism when we deal with this issue”.

But she also said: “The people in my constituency are a bit bemused at the ‘shock, horror’ response particularly of some in government who have known for a very long time that they have not equipped An Garda Siochana to carry out their role fully and effectively.”

She said if you go door-to-door there will be no questions about the Special Criminal Court but people want their communities kept safe.

Under pressure Mr Adams said repealing the laws would not be a redline issue for Sinn Fein in any negotiations for government and said he wasn’t concerned about Sinn Fein history damaging their electoral chances.

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