Mary Lou McDonald backs non-jury court for some cases, but not in its current form
2 hrs ago
J© Getty Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media during the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis outside the Helix in Dublin. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has backed non-jury courts for gangland crime at the at the opening of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis at the Helix in North Dublin.
“We are now saying today that we recognise the need, in exceptional circumstances, for the option of a non-jury court,” she said, ending decades of Republican denunciation of the Special Criminal Court, which heard terrorism cases.
“What we don’t want is the current system, where the DPP decides if there is a case to be prosecuted, and where the case should be heard,” she told journalists as the Ard Fheis opened.
“That’s deeply problematic — it has been criticised from within the legal confraternity and by human right groups, domestically and internationally.”
A non-jury court would be appropriate in cases of jury intimidation and jury or witness tampering, she said.
At the time of the Good Friday agreement the intention was to abolish “special powers,” she said. It was “crazy” to regularly renew 80-year-old legislation, she added, referring to the Offences Against the State Act, 1939.
But new arrangements were needed to hold gangs to account as part of a permanent reform of the system, she added. “Organised crime is wreaking havoc across society, and we are very concerned that these gangs who are bringing terror to the streets are held accountable,” she said. “Part and parcel of that is resourcing the Gardaí”© Getty Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill arrive for the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis at the Helix in Dublin. Picture date: Saturday October 30, 2021. (Photo by Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)
A cross-party report on reform of judicial structures in this area, initiated by former Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, and to which SF had an input, will shortly be published.
Ms McDonald, on the Special Criminal Court, said the party’s position on reform of the judicial system was “very much in the line with Amnesty, the UN, with and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties”.
“It is all about appropriate judicial oversight It is also about recognising that we don’t have an emergency now.”
Some 700 delegates are attending the party’s first in-person Ard Fheis in more than two years, which will also be addressed by Northern leader Michelle O’Neill, with Ms McDonald giving a keynote address on television tonight.
Earlier the latter joked that she “sounded like Darth Vadar, not a good start” as she wore a mask to meet the media.
Health, housing and the need for the Government to work effectively, and in the interest of all in the North, were key messages, she said.
The overall theme is about change, Ms McDonald added, and about “driving change all across Ireland.”