SIR – The sheer level of bile and venom hurled at Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald on account of her stand in opposing the Special Criminal Court is a bitter and incorrigible attack on democracy. There appears to be a steely determination by opponents of Sinn Féin to form a consensus to create a political atmosphere where Sinn Fein is rendered politically toxic and impotent.
On the issue of the Special Criminal Court, Mary Lou McDonald is not a lone voice. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have all expressed their opposition to the continuation of these courts, especially when used against civilians. Indeed, there was a time when Fine Gael and Labour also opposed such draconian measures.
Trial by jury is a bulwark of our constitution. In the Irish State we are lucky in that our constitution is highly valued and robustly defended by the Supreme Court. Indeed, one respected member of the judiciary, the late Cearbhall Ó Dalaigh felt obliged to stand down as President of Ireland due to criticism for exercising his right to refer suspect legislation back to the Supreme Court for adjudication.
In 1972, at the height of the Troubles, when the Fianna Fáil government introduced the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill, the Fine Gael Justice spokesperson Patrick Cooney, later to become Justice Minister, denounced its provisions as ‘repugnant to the basic principles of justice and liberty’.’ The behaviour and attitudes of courts are a determining factor in the behaviour of the Garda.
It was seen that if the courts were taking short cuts to get convictions then the Gardaí could do the same. Nicky Kelly, who was convicted in the Special Criminal Court of the 1976 Sallins Train Robbery was a victim of an appalling miscarriage of justice there.
Surely the primary function of our judicial system should be to dispense justice not to dispense with justice.
Irish National Congress,
27, Pearse Street,