New criminal court will tackle terrorism and crime gangs

Frances Fitzgerald to establish second Special Criminal Court due to case delays

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


The Government is expected to agree this week on the establishment of a second non-jury Special Criminal Court to try terrorist and crime gang offences.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald favours the move because of long delays in processing cases through the existing Special Criminal Court.

Ms Fitzgerald has already secured agreement in principle from her ministerial colleagues for the establishment of the court.

A final decision is expected to be made by the Cabinet this week.

She said yesterday that in the light of the recent success by gardaí in dealing with dissident republicans there were now unacceptable delays in having people tried by the court after they have been charged.

The Minister said that, in an ideal world, she would not have to set up a second special non-jury court but there was no other option in the current circumstances.

“I make no apologies for doing what is necessary and right to face down the threat which people involved in either terrorist activities or organised crime are posing.”

Terrorist organisations

Ms Fitzgerald said the Special Criminal Court was not confined to dealing with members of active terrorist organisations but could be used in any case where the administration of justice requires it.

The Special Criminal Court was established in 1972 following a decision by then minister for justice Des O’Malley that juries could be threatened and intimidated by subversives.

There was huge controversy at the time and the move was strenuously opposed by the Labour Party and many senior figures in Fine Gael before it was passed by the Dáil after the first loyalist bombs in Dublin.

The court has recently become busier with the upsurge in dissident republican activity.

It has dealt with more than 90 cases relating to dissidents in recent years.

Dissident republican Adrian Crevan Mackin, who earlier this month shot his partner and fatally wounded Garda Tony Golden before turning the gun on himself, was on bail after being charged with IRA membership at the Special Criminal Court in January.

His case was due back in court this month.

Ms Fitzgerald also said she was working with Taoiseach Enda Kenny to devise an overarching response to cross-Border crime.