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Green Party leader Ryan signals u-turn on Special Criminal Court

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Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

THE Green Party is set to perform a u-turn on its stance on the Special Criminal Court (SCC) used for the trials of terrorist and gangland suspects if it enters government.

In recent years both of the party's TDs Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin have voted against renewing the law which legislates for the SCC.

At various times since 2016 they have opposed the Offences Against the State Act due to concerns over civil liberties in the non-jury courts it provides for.

Now Party leader Mr Ryan has signalled that his TDs will vote in favour of that law due to concern over the Drogheda gang feud.

And he said he would expect all of his TDs, including Mayo candidate Saoirse McHugh to vote with the party on the issue.

Ms McHugh said today that she wants to see the SCC abolished saying "it's the right thing to do" and suggesting "we can find alternatives that aren't war-time hangovers."

The SCC has been a controversial issue in the election as Sinn Féin came under pressure to defend its policy of opposing the court which was used to convict Provisional IRA terrorists.

Sinn Féin now say they want the court reviewed.

Mr Ryan said Ms McHugh isn't alone in her concerns about the SCC and said others like Amnesty International, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the UN have made similar points.

He said the Green Party don't want a system where there are non-jury courts.

However he also said there are "last resort exemptions" in cases where witnesses or jurors face intimidation.

Mr Ryan said that the way Green Party TDs have voted on the Offences Against the State Act over the years due to "real concerns" with the way the SCC works.

He said it should be reformed and suggested that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should decide which cases could be compromised by intimidation and "special provisions" would be in place for those trials.

Mr Ryan confirmed that the Green Party have "voted both ways" on the Offences Against the State Act, supporting its renewal when it was in government with Fianna Fáil.

He pointed to the Limerick gang war that was raging at the time as the reason for this.

Asked if all of his TDs will vote in favour of the law if they are in government after the election, Mr Ryan indicated that they would due to the Drogheda gang feud.

He said: "There is an air of fear on the streets... fundamentally the first thing in my mind is us standing up for the State and protecting people from intimidation. That cannot be allowed."

Mr Ryan said that if the DPP has concerns about raising a jury in such cases, the Green Party should vote to allow the current arrangements to continue.

Meanwhile, Mr Ryan hit out at Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin for climate action policies he argued either weren't ambitious enough, or don’t offer detail on how they will be achieved.

He claimed other parties have gone "back to old ways promising tax cuts and spending increases".

He warned that Ireland is facing €7bn in fines if Ireland's climate targets are not met which would "throw all their promises out the window".

Mr Ryan said his party's plan is "about investing in public services for the future" citing plans to invest in walking, cycling and public transport.

He claimed the election marks a change for the Greens arguing: "we are no longer a small party" and adding that they’re running in every constituency.

Mr Ryan said he thinks the party's candidate Cleo Murphy has a chance of winning a seat in Kerry and others can "sweep right through the country"

Saying "I hope I'm not going to be shot now for this", he highlighted candidates he described as "'our Wild Atlantic Women'", including Ms Murphy and Ms McHugh in their ranks.

He said: "I think we're going to surprise people. I think we're going to win in constituencies no one reckons we're going to win."

Eamon Ryan speaks about biodiversity and climate change challenges in rural Ireland.

Online Editors