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War of Words

"Decent republicans are tax compliant" - Rivals attack Adams over 'Slab' Murphy comments

Micheál Martin and Alan Shatter have both come out against the Sinn Féin leader.

Updated 3.15 pm

GERRY ADAMS’ COMMENTS about convicted tax evader Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy have provoked both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael into claiming Sinn Féin are “not fit for government”.

Adams yesterday criticised the State’s use of the non-jury Special Criminal Court to try Murphy, saying that he has been “treated unfairly” and insisting that Murphy remains a “good republican”.

Murphy (66), of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth was found guilty of not paying income tax for nine years.

Adams’ defence of him has led to stinging criticism from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who has described the comments as “extraordinary”:

Gerry Adams’ statement is absolutely extraordinary and further emphasises the fact that Sinn Féin is not fit for government. This response is completely consistent with how Sinn Féin leadership has behaved in a string of cases in recent times. They are more interested in protecting their own than respecting and enforcing the rule of law.

Martin said that the response from Adams shows “how important Slab Murphy continues to be to the Sinn Fein project.”

“Decent republicans are tax compliant,” he added.

But Adams’ response to these charges has been swift, accusing “the Independent Media Group and the Fianna Fáil Leader” of using his remarks about Murphy to attack Sinn Féin.

The Sinn Féin leader says that his remarks were about his party’s opposition to the Special Criminal Court:

Let me be very clear, Sinn Féin is strongly opposed to tax evasion. Everyone has a duty to pay their taxes and there can be no equivocation about this. Sinn Féin supports the gardaí, the criminal justice system and the rule of law. Let me be equally clear that Sinn Féin is absolutely opposed to the existence and operation of the non-jury Special Criminal Court.

“Year on year, the UNHRC has called on this state to address the issue of the Special Criminal Court,” he added.

14/10/2015 Thomas Slab Murphy Court Cases Thomas Slab Murphy leaving court in October. Mark Stedman Mark Stedman

In October, the government decided to establish a second jury-less Special Criminal Court. This is opposed to the UN Human Rights Committee’s advice that its continued existence in Ireland is in violation of human rights obligations. Amnesty International and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties are also opposed to it.

The court was established and used in large part during the The Troubles but has also been used for organised crime cases.

This issue is beside the point according the Fianna Fáil leader.

“It is incredible that Adams would concentrate on the unfairness of this case when it took the Criminal Assets Bureau to carry out this investigation in the first place. CAB does not normally investigate routine non-payment of tax,” Martin says.

Former Justice Miniter Alan Shatter has also come out attacking Adams’ stance, claiming that “Sinn Féin has always hated the Special Criminal Court”.

It was established in the 1970s to ensure those engaged in terrorism could be prosecuted without the law being subverted by jury intimidation. Many of those guilty of murder, barbaric assaults, bank robberies and arms offences have been convicted and jailed by the court.

“To protect the security of the State and the rule of law the Special Criminal Court is still required,” Shatter said, calling on Sinn Féin to make their position clear on whether they would abolish the court.

PastedImage-67649 Facebook / Alan Shatter Facebook / Alan Shatter / Alan Shatter

Speaking before Shatter’s intervention, Adams said earlier that the continued use of the jury-less court is a live issue:

It is truly extraordinary that a case regarding a failure to complete tax returns would be heard at the Special Criminal Court. This is in breach of Tom Murphy’s rights under the Constitution and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). As I have already remarked there was nothing ordinary or routine about the trial and conviction of Tom Murphy who was denied the right to be tried before a jury of his peers and this raises serious concerns.

Read: Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy found guilty of not paying income tax for nine years >

Read: Republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy pleads not guilty to tax offences >

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