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13.10 24 Jun 2020


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Sinn Féin has not outright opposed the renewal of legislation that empowers the Special Criminal Court for the first time.

After long being opponents of the non-jury court, Sinn Féin abstained in the vote on the laws that give it authority.

It's a significant shift in policy for the party and the first time they haven't outright opposed the legislation.

However, the Sinn Féin decision was partly conditional on an independent review of the laws within a year.

The legislation - which has to be renewed every year - was today approved by the reduced number of TDs allowed in the Dáil chamber, with 32 yes votes against three no votes and two abstentions.

Speaking in the chamber, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the non-jury courts are still needed.

He said: "There remains a real and persistent threat from republican and paramilitary groups on this island.

"Our society greatly values trial by jury, and we must protect that value - but we cannot ignore the reality of organised crime and the very real threat that it poses to the criminal justice process."

Fianna Fáil's Justice Spokesman Jim O'Callaghan had a similar view.

He said the country has seen that gangland criminals "will murder children and journalists, and they'll intimidate witnesses".

However, some left-wing TDs argued there's no need for this kind of a court in peace time.

Opposing the legislation, RISE TD Paul Murphy said the right to have a trial by jury is an "essential democratic right".

The laws still have to be approved by senators before they are fully renewed, assuming a full Seanad can be constituted by a new government this weekend.

Reporting by Sean Defoe and Stephen McNeice
Main image: File photo of the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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