SINN Féin leader Gerry Adams has not done much to ingratiate himself to floating voters in the South with his insistence that the jury-less Special Criminal Court should be abolished. Over the years, he has seen colleagues from the days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland convicted in this court and incarcerated for crimes they carried out, many of them subsequent to the ceasefires and the peace process that followed, and he obviously still harbours a sense of loyalty to certain ‘good republicans.’
But his stance is very much that of a Northern republican and so out of kilter with the way the majority of law-abiding citizens would think here in the Republic of Ireland. Despite reservations about the Special Criminal Court expressed by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the UN Commission on Human Rights, people here have always abhorred the intimidation of witnesses and jurors and that led to the Court’s role being expanded ten years ago beyond paramilitary activities to include criminal gangs involved in drugs and money laundering both at home and abroad.
The existence of the Special Criminal Court is reviewed annually and, judging by the fears created on the streets of Dublin by the latest violent gangland feud, which is unprecedented in its callousness, it is unlikely to be abolished any time soon. In fact, the establishment of a second such court to speed up many trials that are outstanding is imminent.
If the Special Criminal Court is done away with, as Mr Adams would wish, how are jurors in the regular criminal courts going to be adequately protected from intimidation of themselves and their families, especially with Garda resources so badly stretched? The current crop of gangland protagonists seem uninhibited in their brazenness, extending their threats also to journalists who are exposing their nefarious activities and their downright contempt for civilised society.