Sinn Féin confirms it will abstain from Dáil vote on renewing law for non-jury court

Party also has ‘no difficulty whatsoever’ declaring its property portfolio

Sinn Féin has confirmed that it will abstain from the Dáil vote on the renewal of the law providing for the non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC) for the third year in a row.

The Cabinet has approved Minister for Justice Helen McEntee’s request for the Offences Against the State Act to be extended for another 12 months.

The renewal of the legislation giving powers will now be put to Dáil and Seanad votes in the coming weeks.

The SCC handles terrorism and organised crime cases.

It was previously used during the Troubles to prosecute members of the Provisional IRA and more recently has been used for cases involving dissident republicans.

Sinn Féin has traditionally opposed the annual renewal of the Offences Against the State Act, though it abstained in the Dáil vote for the first time in 2020 and did so again in 2021.

Senior TD Eoin Ó Broin confirmed on Tuesday that the party will abstain again this year. “We won’t be opposing or objecting to the renewal,” he said.

Review

According to Mr Ó Broin, Sinn Féin has long argued for an independent review of the law which is currently underway.

An independent review group, chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Michael Peart, is examining all aspects of the Act.

This work is ongoing and it is expected that the group will submit a final report in the autumn.

Mr Ó Broin said: “We’re eagerly waiting that because we do think there needs to be a comprehensive reform to ensure our criminal justice system and court system is fit to deal with the challenges of 21st-century crime.”

Sinn Féin dropped its long-standing policy of outright opposition to the SCC following a motion passed by its ard fheis last year.

The motion included criticisms of the SCC in relation to civil liberties and outlined the need for the law to be modernised but also acknowledged that non-jury courts may be needed in “exceptional circumstances”.

Separately Mr Ó Broin said his party would have “no difficulty whatsoever” in making an annual declaration of the properties it owns.

It comes after the Cabinet signed off on amendments to the forthcoming Electoral Reform Bill 2022 that would require political parties to disclose their property portfolios every year.

The measure is set to have the biggest impact on Sinn Féin, which is believed to have the largest property portfolio of any of the parties.