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Gerry O'Carroll: It's no time for talks with terrorists

AN ELECTED TD has no place meeting with criminal terrorists like the Real IRA. These thugs are narcoterrorists, hardmen with links to criminality including drugs.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has offered to meet them and Justice Minister Alan Shatter has responded, rightly, that talking with the RIRA is unlikely to achieve anything.

Let's be clear. The RIRA are killers, with access to plastic explosives and heavy machine guns. They are suspected of engaging in a variety of criminal activities, including running protection rackets on drug dealers and pubs, and engaging in extortion.

They have shown a murderous indifference to human life, with the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, not to mention the Omagh bombing.

Gerry Adams' Dail career may be in it infancy but there's one thing he needs to learn about politics in the Republic of Ireland. It's that no Democrat has any business meeting murdering warlords as they conducted a campaign of killing.

Mind you, why would the Real IRA bother to sit down with old greybeards like Adams?

The RIRA and their fellow travellers see themselves as carrying the torch of true Republicanism, and regard their former pals in Sinn Fein as traitors.

The only people to meet with the RIRA -- essentially the Provos Mark II -- should be the security forces, on both sides of the Border.

And the only venue a RIRA man should be spoken to is in the Special Criminal Court.

Sure, jail garda killers for life... but do the same for all killers

RANK AND FILE gardai have called for mandatory life sentences to be imposed for the manslaughter of a garda.

They have also demanded stricter penalties for those who injure members of the force during the course of their duties.

This call -- made at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association this week -- is one I've made many times in the past.

But, as society has become increasingly violent, it should be extended, to attacks on all members of the public.

I must stress that I back the GRA's call for stricter sentences for attacks on officers.

In making the call, GRA President Damien McCarthy no doubt had in mind the death of Garda Robbie McCallion, run over in Donegal by a young thug who was evading arrest.

Acquitted of manslaughter, the thug got six years for dangerous driving, a risible sentence given that his actions caused the death of a garda.

In the US and the UK there is special legislation in place for dealing with attacks on police.

In this country, members of the force, most unarmed, put their lives on the line on a daily basis to protect our citizens.

They do this amid increasing levels of violence in recent years. There are currently two attacks on gardai a day.

Most recently, in Raheny just 10 days ago, we had a garda stabbed in the face with a bottle, requiring 30 stitches.

Gardai have a special status in the work they do enforcing the law. This status should be recognised by legislators, given that our gardai are, in the main, unarmed.

How different things were in the 1970s. As a young garda then I remember being on duty in the Special Criminal Court for the case of husband and wife bank robbers Noel and Marie Murray. They were convicted of the murder of Garda Michael Reynolds, who they shot dead in St Anne's Park, Raheny.

They were sentenced to death, which was the sentence at the time for capital murder -- the killing of a police officer.

This was subsequently commuted to 40 years imprisonment, effectively life imprisonment. Such a sentence was correct, fitting the crime.

For a number of years, in these pages, I have campaigned for the severest of penalties to be imposed on those found guilty of manslaughter of a garda. But why stop there?

Those convicted of the manslaughter of ordinary citizens should also receive a mandatory sentence. It is provided for in law, but we rarely see it applied.

It is an affront to justice that people who kill are emerging from prisons after serving just six and seven years.

No less a person that Central Criminal Court judge Paul Carney has commented that his hands are tied in sentencing, by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Judge Carney has effectively been rapped over the knuckles by appeal judges for stiff, and wholly appropriate, sentences he has handed down.

Too often we see families and relatives of all crime victims in anguish as short sentences are handed down in cases of manslaughter. There is no reason why this should be so.

Stiff sentences are a deterrent and the lack of them is directly connected, in my opinion and experience, to the rise in callous, violent crime.

Let's have life tariffs for the manslaughter of a garda, by all means, and let's have the same sentence for all those who claim an innocent person's life.

Courage of little Megan puts all our problems in their place

IN the midst of all our daily bad news, there was one ray of hope this week.

Three-year-old Megan Malone, who has battled a brain tumour and was given just a 20pc chance of survival, is on the mend.

The little Cork girl has amazed doctors with her rapid recovery.

These days, a lot of us have fears for our jobs and mortgages, and other things, because of the recession.

But the bravery of this little girl truly puts it all in perspective.

Stay home, Charlie and save someone's job...

Cold, desolate, and tired. And that was just the presentation style.

Those were my thoughts when I turned on the TV and saw Charlie Bird standing at the Antarctic.

The reporter, on his latest across-the-world journey, was retracing the already well-documented steps of Irish explorer Tom Crean.

He looked almost as lonely huffing and puffing across the frozen wastes as he did in Washington, where he ploughed a forlorn furrow as RTE's correspondent a few years back.

With RTE talking of cutting pay and proposing redundancies, it surprised me to see Charlie on another adventure.

It all begs the question of where he'll will go next? How about the RTE newsroom, where he could hunt for a fresh story?