Flana­gan defends top crim­i­nal court over SF claims

Irish Independent - - News - Tom Brady

JUS­TICE Min­is­ter Char­lie Flana­gan has con­demned Sinn Féin’s cam­paign to shut down the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court and its claims that the judges were guilty of an anti-repub­li­can bias.

Ideally, the min­is­ter said, all se­ri­ous crime cases should be held be­fore a judge and jury.

But Ire­land was in an unique po­si­tion be­cause of a legacy re­sult­ing from the Trou­bles in North­ern Ire­land for more than three decades.

Mr Flana­gan (in­set) de­scribed the judges of the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court as coura­geously per­form­ing a pub­lic service in pre­sid­ing over the prose­cu­tions of some of the most dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals in the State.

He said the court had been de­ployed in the past to deal with ter­ror­ists from the Pro­vi­sional IRA and dis­si­dent groups and was now also hear­ing cases con­nected to or­gan­ised crime.

Mr Flana­gan re­jected the at­tempts by Sinn Féin to seek the abo­li­tion of the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court and said he was de­ter­mined that “the bul­let will not pre­vail over the bal­lot box”.

While it was true that many Pro­vi­sional IRA and dis­si­dent repub­li­can ter­ror­ists had been con­victed of heinous crimes by the Spe­cial Crim­i­nal Court over the years, it did not fol­low that it had an anti-repub­li­can bias, Mr Flana­gan ar­gued.

The min­is­ter pointed out that be­cause of the vol­ume of prose­cu­tions brought by the gar­daí, the gov­ern­ment had to set up a se­cond Spe­cial Court.

This had re­sulted in the wait­ing time for cases to be heard be­ing halved to less than a year.

This, he said, un­der­lined the gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­ued fo­cus on tackling se­ri­ous crime af­fect­ing the se­cu­rity of the State and en­sur­ing that those in­volved in such of­fences were brought swiftly to jus­tice.

Mr Flana­gan said dis­si­dent repub­li­cans posed the great­est risk to State se­cu­rity and he praised the suc­cesses of Garda anti-ter­ror units. Sep­a­rately, he also noted that a third re­gional or divisional Garda head­quar­ters had been opened within the past four months at a cost of over €100m.

The min­is­ter said this was tak­ing place at a time of ma­jor re­form and in­vest­ment, which would re­de­fine the na­tional po­lice service as an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Mr Flana­gan wel­comed the im­mi­gra­tion fa­cil­i­ties in­cluded in the new divisional Garda head­quar­ters in Wex­ford.

With Ross­lare Euro­port nearby, this area han­dled huge num­bers of im­mi­gra­tion ap­pli­ca­tions and cases.

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