Deputy Martin Kenny’s comments on the Special Criminal Court at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis only further highlight the fact that his party still has no regard for the role of the court, arguing its use is acceptable to pursue justice for some but not for all, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said, “During his speech at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis, Deputy Martin Kenny alleged that the Offences Against the State Acts were used in the ‘past for political convenience in times of conflict against republicans’. He went on to say that we need non-jury courts to protect communities against gangland crime and intimidation – but failed to mention the need for such courts when it comes to terrorist offences.
“Criminal activity is now, and always has been, criminal activity, and it is no less scary to be threatened by someone with paramilitary links than by a drug gang. Deputy Kenny referred to the natural fear that would be felt by those asked to appear in front of gangland criminals. How does he imagine ordinary people would feel if asked to preside over a case involving terrorists?
“How does the purported Minister for Justice make that distinction in his mind? And what will it mean for the future?
“It is clear that despite the smooth assurances of his party leader that ‘we mean dissidents too’, a very clear line of separate thinking remains at the top of Sinn Féin when it comes to the use of non-jury courts, no matter how shiny the glossy presentation.
“This is the very definition of Deputy Kenny speaking out of both sides of his mouth and shows that under a Sinn Féin government, it will be justice for some – but Sinn Féin will be defining the ‘some’.
“Given that the purported Minister for Justice has such a distorted view of the role of our courts, could we be sure that people with links to paramilitary forces would face prosecution under Sinn Féin proposals?
“Deputy Kenny’s comments also completely undermine the court convictions of criminals with paramilitary links to date. In one sentence the purported Minister showed his continued, up to this present day, disregard for the workings of our courts – when it comes to ‘Republicans’.
“You can’t politically pick and choose your current or past criminals Deputy Kenny. You can’t pick and choose which courts and their convictions are legitimate or not.
“What is also in keeping with Sinn Féin is the total absence of detailed policy on this issue. Deputy Kenny is a politician lining himself up to be a future Minister for Justice, yet on the issue of a hugely important feature of our criminal justice system, all he and his party have produced is a half-page motion. It’s easy to write up a motion for an Ard Fheis, but if Sinn Féin truly consider themselves a potential Government party, yet again, we ask the question: where is the policy?
“Not a single criminal justice policy position has been published on the Sinn Féin website since the General Election in 2020 – notwithstanding the considerably enhanced resources available to Sinn Féin since then.
“Serious questions remain regarding the proposed functioning of our criminal justice system under Sinn Féin, yet when it is time to actively engage on the issue, we see party TDs simply walk out of the Dáil. When it comes to voting on the Offences Against the State Acts next year, will Sinn Féin avoid their parliamentary duties in favour of a political stunt and once again abstain?” Deputy Carroll MacNeill asked.