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Abstention on renewal of counter terrorism laws unacceptable – Ward

29th May 2024 - Senator Barry Ward

Parties who vote against or abstain from voting on the Special Criminal Court motion need to explain why, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Barry Ward, Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on Justice said: “I support my colleague Minister Helen McEntee, who this week sought government approval to renew the state’s counter-terrorism laws for a further period of 12 months. “The Special Criminal Court (SCC) is a three-judge criminal court which operates without a jury and is employed in the most exceptional circumstances. Though its original use was to try and prosecute terrorist organisations, it is now also used to address the rise in gangland and organised crime.

“The truth is that these threats still exist. We have a responsibility to protect our citizens.

“As a practising barrister, I would never take for granted the value of juries in criminal trials. However, I am also aware that juries are made up of ordinary people who are vulnerable to intimidation in many ways.

“Sinn Féin has long spun a false narrative about the SCC and has a history of voting against it or, more recently, abstaining from voting on it. I sincerely hope that we do not see a repeat of the excuses and justifications for being soft on crime this year.

“I would urge Sinn Féin to make its position on the SCC clear. If the Party’s representatives choose to walk away yet again from this important tool in the state’s arsenal for dealing with terrorists and organised crime, then I think it owes the public an explanation. Why would Sinn Féin continue with this complete lack of respect for protecting our jurors?

“Fine Gael is tough on crime; we step up to protect citizens in every way we can. That’s why we support the renewal of the Offences Against the State Acts and the Special Criminal Courts.

“However, we respect the particular significance of the SCC and believe both regular monitoring and reviews of the court are needed to ensure it continues to function in an appropriate and effective way. I look forward to the review that is coming down the tracks on the overall operation of the court,” Senator Ward concluded.

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