Monday 10 December 2018

Justice Minister denounces Sinn Féin criticisms of the Special Criminal Court

'The Special Criminal Court is a vital part of the State’s defence against violent terrorists and ruthless criminals,' the Justice Minister said.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
John Downing

John Downing

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has utterly rejected comments by Sinn Féin about judges of the Special Criminal Court - and insisted the Court is vital in the war against terrorists and criminals.

Mr Flanagan was challenged to clarify his position after Sinn Féin agreed to support Fine Gael introducing a controversial new law to change the way judges are appointed.  The change comes at the insistence of Independent Minister, Shane Ross, and is opposed by Fianna Fáil, leaving the minority Coalition in difficulty.

During a debate on the new judge appointment law Sinn Féin TD, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, made scathing comments about judges of the non-jury Special Criminal Courts.  This court was set to end the intimidation of juries in cases involving the IRA and other paramilitary criminals.

Despite the controversial Fine Gael- Sinn Féin alliance on judge appointments – dubbed by Fianna Fáil as “an unholy alliance” - Mr Ó Snodaigh went out of his way to criticise the judges of the Special Criminal Court (SCC).

Mr Ó Snodaigh used his Dáil privilege to allege the SCC Judges had shown “an anti-republican bias.”  The Dublin South Central TD said the new law on appointing judges would not change that alleged situation – but he welcomed the prospect of some judges “coming with a different view of the world.”

Mr Flanagan was challenged by the Irish Independent to give his views on the controversial comments, which enraged many within Fine Gael who are uncomfortable with the latest alliance with Sinn Féin.

The Justice Minister has told independent.ie that he totally rejects these comments. “I am disturbed that groundless allegations have been made in the Dáil against the judiciary,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said it was true that the Special Criminal Court had convicted many from the Provisional IRA and so-called dissident republicans for heinous crimes over the years. “It does not follow that the court has an anti-Republican bias,” he added.

He said the SCC judges had done courageous public service in presiding over the prosecutions of some of the most dangerous criminals in the history of the State.

“The Special Criminal Court is a vital part of the State’s defence against violent terrorists and ruthless criminals,” the Justice Minister said.

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