Tuesday 19 March 2019

Backlash over an 'unholy alliance' with SF on judges

Aengus O Snodaigh’s claim provoked accusation of ‘revenge’
Aengus O Snodaigh’s claim provoked accusation of ‘revenge’

The Government is facing a backlash after agreeing a deal with Sinn Fein to pass new laws on how judges are appointed.

Fianna Fail has accused the Government of forming an "unholy alliance" with Sinn Fein to see the controversial Judicial Alliance Bill passed.

The row escalated following an intervention by Dublin South Central TD and Sinn Fein whip Aengus O Snodaigh in a Dail debate on the legislation.

Mr O Snodaigh claimed that some judges in the Special Criminal Court have shown "anti-republican bias".

Fianna Fail TD Thomas Byrne last night suggested Sinn Fein's motivation in supporting the Bill may be to "get revenge on the courts system", in light of Mr O Snodaigh's comments.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told a private Fine Gael party meeting that there is "no deal" with Sinn Fein.

However, Mary Lou McDonald's party has backed the Bill in return for an assurance that sentencing guidelines will be introduced.

The Sinn Fein leader said it is important for her party "to get a result" in this area because "we have been very conscious that serious crimes against the person, particularly sexual crimes, were carrying sentences that were raising big concerns and questions in the public mind".

Sinn Fein justice spokesman Donnchadh O Laoghaire said the party "sought and secured this commitment on sentencing guidelines".

Transport Minister Shane Ross, an Independent TD, has made the ending of political power over the appointment of judges a red line issue for his participation in Mr Varadkar's minority Government.

During a debate on the issue, Mr O Snodaigh said judges in the Special Criminal Court were "anti-republican".

He added that while the proposed committee which will advise the Government on the appointment of judges would not necessarily address the issue, he welcomed the idea of a lay majority as "they come with a different view of the world".

Justice Minister Charles Flanagan repeated the denials that there was any deal struck with Sinn Fein and said the Government must work with people from all parties and none to promote its legislative agenda.

He dismissed calls to "collapse this enterprise".

He also criticised the claims about the Special Criminal Court as "groundless".


Yesterday, Ms McDonald appeared to try to distance herself from her chief whip and defend him at the same time.

Asked directly whether she agrees with Mr O Snodaigh, she replied: "I am not interested in rewriting and revisiting the history books on this matter.

"We have every interest in due process and the sound and fair administration of law and for us at this moment a really critical issue has arisen around sentencing guidelines."

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