Changed the Goal Posts so Many Times

The Dublin High Court has rejected an application from the jailed republican, Michael McKevitt, to secure early release from prison. In lieu of granting his bid it has given him leave to take a judicial review of the Justice Department’s decision to continue holding him. The state is determined that there will be no shortening of his jail term and has stated its intent to oppose any judicial review that might frustrate its resolve.

For now he remains in Portlaoise Prison where I visited him earlier in the summer and was pleased to find a man in such good spirits despite the many years banged up. A penal system with retribution rather than rehabilitation as the end goal that crushes people, robs them of personal autonomy and recycles them as useless automatons rather than useful citizens has little to recommend it. 

The Louth republican made the case that he was eligible for one third remission of sentence rather than the one quarter. Had his application been successful he would have been a free man, released in July of this year rather than having to wait until March 2016. As such he had argued that a ruling of unlawful detention would have been consistent with Article 40 of the Constitution.

The legal route seemed the logical step for McKevitt to take. Prior to his application a High Court judge had:
ordered the immediate release, from Portlaoise Prison of “self-acknowledged IRA prisoner” Niall Farrell, on the grounds he had not been given proper consideration by the prison authorities for a one-third remission of sentence.
Subsequently, McKevitt's barrister not unreasonably suggested to the court that the Farrell decision opened the way for his own client’s release. 

At an earlier point in the proceedings the case had been adjourned while the Supreme Court deliberated over its verdict in the case of a non-political prisoner, Eddie Ryan Jnr. The Limerick figure had been released by the High Court in a decision that overruled former Justice Minister Alan Shatter's dismissal of Ryan's application to benefit from one third remission. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Ryan and ordered his return to jail. Not a decision that was ever going to be advantageous to McKevitt. 

Michael McKevitt was sentenced to 20 years jail in 2003 having been convicted of directing terrorism and Real IRA membership. The main evidence against him was provided by a witness of such dubious reliability that the only grounds for securing a conviction in a court more jaundiced than judicial were politically prejudicial rather than legally evidential. The Irish judiciary, in a rush to wear the same wigs their 1980s discredited counterparts in the North had donned, compromised judicial independence in order to lock up an unwanted member of the public at the behest of the government.

The evidence of alleged accomplices is so driven by self-serving motives that more vantage points for greater injustices are opened up than foreclosed. The wholly tainted evidence of Fergus O’Hanlon in the recent trial of a man accused of murdering Romanian teenager Marioara Rostas, if nothing else, demonstrated the innately loaded quality, and thus unreliability, of accomplice evidence.

In a climate created by the Omagh bombing, where those who had approved the Enniskillen bombing had suddenly clamoured to appear at bomb sites the type of which they had previously created, it was a relatively easy matter to isolate republicans like McKevitt who were at odds with the Good Friday Agreement. As Charles Caleb Colton said 'no sinners are so intolerant as those that have just turned saints.'

McKevitt feels that the same political contamination from that era is seeping into the decision making processes that continue to govern his imprisonment; that the Garda, for example, have been allowed to influence a ministerial decision by submitting a report to the Justice Department alleging McKevitt might become involved in illegal activity if released early. While it is not clear if by that the Garda mean phone tapping and other types of illegal surveillance, what is clear is that this is not police evidence but police lobbying. 

Someone who has watched the case closely recently said that it reeks of:
the same devious methods that took place during his original trial. Delay tactics, bully boy tactics, redacted Garda reports, removing legal documents on the day of the case, scare tactics etc, etc. They have changed the goal posts so many times, changed the prison rules, it goes on and on.

One irony in this case that should not escape us is the nauseating nothingness that inflates the bombast of Toffs against Terrorism. Those outraged voices so stridently deployed against the Omagh bomb have in recent weeks been applauding the relentless bombing of the children of Gaza. There is a lesson here: they were not really against the Omagh bomb at all, just against the Omagh bombers. Keep McKevitt jailed and give Netanyahu the Nobel Peace prize.

Terrorism is always wrong  but you would never know it from listening to those people.

1 comment:

  1. From Eoin

    The problems inherent in accomplice evidence are well known and they have been a feature of the Irish legal system for so long ( eg see the evidence provided by the informer James Carey against the Invincibles in Phoenix Park Killings case in the 1880s) that it is certain that their use will continue.

    The problem though is compounded by the use of accomplice evidence in conjunction with a non-jury courts. It means that the judges must go through the entirely artificial process of warning themselves abut the dangers of relying on the uncorroborated evidence of the accomplices. It would be preferable if 12 fellow citizens ( in contrast to 3 judges in the Special; 1 judge sitting alone in the Diplock ) were allowed to decide on the credibility of the informer/approver/accomplice.

    It is surely the time for a debate on whether the use of non-jury courts is still justified 16 years post GFA. In addition, the use of the Special Criminal Court, to try gangland crime is a worrying seepage of 'emergency legislation' into 'regular' or 'ordinary' crime. In the USA, where arguably the problem of gangland crime is more widespread and embedded, the gangsters are still tried by jury. In the majority of common law countries, trial by jury is still the norm."