Thursday 22 February 2018

Now Sinn Féin wants to scrap anti-terror laws when in power

Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of the Sinn Féin manifesto. Photo: Tom Burke
Mary Lou McDonald at the launch of the Sinn Féin manifesto. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Sinn Féin wants to repeal the country's most powerful anti-terror laws despite the two cold-blooded murders that shocked the nation.

The party's manifesto commits it not only to abolishing the Special Criminal Court but also to removing legislation that outlaws membership of illegal organisations, intimidation of the government and the establishment of kangaroo courts.

Astonishingly, party president Gerry Adams could not provide any suggestion of what legislation he would introduce to maintain law and order after removing the Offences Against the State Acts.

He insisted the "normal rule of law" would suffice and said the feuding of recent days was the result of a lack of Garda resources alone.

"Our position on the Special Criminal Court is a long-standing one. It's been there for as long as I can remember," Mr Adams said.

But while Mr Adams and his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald staunchly defended their policy yesterday, he then conceded it would not be a red-line issue for their involvement in government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night described the Sinn Féin proposal as "the anathema of the laws of democracy and good justice in this country".

Both Mr Adams and Ms McDonald condemned the Regency Hotel murder of David Byrne and the retaliation hit on Eddie Hutch Snr, saying those responsible were "thugs".

Ms McDonald, who is a TD for Dublin Central where Mr Hutch was murdered, said: "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.

"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."

Asked repeatedly what he would replace the Offences Against the State Acts with, Mr Adams replied: "The normal rule of law."

However, he refused to explain what his vision of the "normal rule of law" was.

The Louth TD said he was not concerned "at all" that the bloody events of recent days would remind voters of his own past.

"It's very opportunistic of the Taoiseach to use any of these dreadful incidents and these brutal murders to try and score points off Sinn Féin," Mr Adams said.

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

"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 Síochána to carry out their role fully and effectively."

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who lives a short distance from the Regency Hotel, told's 'Frontbench' podcast the Special Criminal Court was still a necessary part of the judicial system despite being originally set up to deal with the IRA.

"The Special Criminal Court was badly needed through all the years of the Troubles and the Northern Troubles and I suppose that's what it was associated with but it's equally absolutely necessary when you're dealing with the kind of criminal gangs that are in the country," he said.

Mr Ahern added that the Sinn Féin policy "is wrong and as I've learned myself in my life, when you're wrong a good idea sometimes is to put your hands up and say I'm wrong".

Irish Independent

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