Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin drops long-standing opposition to Republic's non-jury courts

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly. Picture by Mal McCann

SINN Féin has dropped its long-standing opposition to the use of non-jury courts in the Republic.

There was majority support at the party's ard fheis for a motion that will help clear a path into the next Dublin government.

While a former prisoner James McGivern and Orga Sinn Féin, the party's youth wing, opposed the use of non-jury courts in "exceptional cases", most of the 500-odd delegates supported it, along with a call for an overhaul of the current system, including the special criminal court.

North Belfast MLA and Policing Board member, Gerry Kelly described it as a "very significant route for the party leadership" when he spoke in support.

"This motion is not just about criticising what exists. (It is) an effective alternative that will change the daily lives of our people who are under pressure from organised crime gangs, who are bringing nothing but hurt, especially to the most vulnerable in our communities," he said.

"We believe that all courts should be integrated into a single, modern justice system, which will include provision for jury trials, anonymising jury trials, and special protection for juries where these are clearly demonstrated."

Sinn Féin TDs last year abstained from a vote on renewing the legislation that empowers the court, the first time the party had not opposed it.

Leader Mary Lou McDonald said the party recognised the need for a non-jury court "in exceptional circumstances".

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Northern Ireland news