Flanagan questions 'true motives' of SF attack on court
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has questioned the "true motivations" of Sinn Féin after the party called for the end of non-jury trials for people facing allegations of terrorist activity.
It has been the long-standing policy of Mary Lou McDonald's party that the Special Criminal Court should be abolished. But Mr Flanagan told the Dáil last night that the "toxic legacy" of the Provisional IRA was a "rump of violent dissident republicans who vehemently oppose peace and democracy".
"I am determined that these terrorists will not succeed - the bullet will not prevail over the ballot box," he said.
The minister said there was a "close relationship between terrorist groups and serious crime gangs - indeed sometimes, they are indistinguishable from one another".
He was speaking in response to Sinn Féin justice spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire who criticised non-jury courts.
He said his party recognised there were circumstances where it was proportionate to provide the anonymity of jurors.
"This can be done by screens in courtroom or in very specific circumstances where required by remote location of jurors with video links to courtrooms," he said.
But Mr Flanagan said he was "deeply concerned" by the attempt to "undermine the Special Criminal Court".
"The reason a Special Criminal Court exists is because of the threat to jurors' lives posed by the most violent and dangerous criminals in the State," he said.
"The judges that serve on the court perform courageous public service, presiding without fear or favour over the prosecution of some of the most dangerous terrorists and ruthless criminals in the State."
The row comes ahead of Sinn Féin's Ard Fheis this weekend.
At the launch yesterday, party treasurer Pearse Doherty faced questions over the party's long-standing claim that TDs take home only the average wage. Earlier this year, the Irish Independent revealed that Dessie Ellis does not adhere to this policy - but Mr Doherty said he did not know if others were also in receipt of larger pay packets.