Sinn Féin still believes there is “no place” for Special Criminal Court to take on gangs, according to Fine Gael Minister of State Peter Burke.
Minister Burke said, “Sinn Féin’s motion to its Ard Fheis – far from supporting the Special Criminal Court – actually reconfirms that the party wants the Court and the Offences Against the State Acts scrapped.
“These have been invaluable tools in our armoury in tackling paramilitaries, organised criminals and the drugs gangs which have challenged the authority of the State over decades.
“Not only does the Sinn Féin’s Ard Fheis motion say that the ‘Special Criminal Court as currently constituted has no place in a modern criminal justice system’ – it says the Offences Against the State Acts are ‘archaic…and incapable of tackling serious organised crime’.
“These comments from Sinn Féin are deeply troubling particularly in the context of the ongoing work to dismantle criminal gangs. The success of the State in tackling serious criminals show that the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act are vital.
“Sinn Féin should outline exactly the basis for its entirely false claims that the Special Criminal Court and Offences Against the State Act have fallen short.
“Of course, we must always update our laws, and the review into the Offences Against the State Act led by Mr Justice Michael Peart, former Judge of the Court of Appeal, is timely.
“However Fine Gael is clear of the continued need for the Special Criminal Court and Offences Against the State Act to protect the Irish people .
“Sinn Féin’s motion, on the other hand, does not even commit to the use of non-jury courts in exceptional circumstances, but instead sets out a number of criteria before such courts are even proposed. One of these criteria is the ‘setting of a high bar on the exceptional circumstances to be met. The lack of detail is deeply troubling.
“The Irish people will not forget that Sinn Féin for years opposed the Special Criminal Court – and even walked out of the Dáil this year rather than support its retention.
“This manoeuvring and posturing shows that Sinn Féin cannot be trusted on security and law and order”, Minister Burke concluded.