Flanagan defends top criminal court over SF claims
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.