Would you rather they had been tried here, Gerry?

As Sinn Féin try to resurrect the campaign to pressurise the media, and politicians, in regard to the 3 Sinn Féin activists currently MIA in (or out of) Colombia, these quotes from a Sinn Féin TD sprang to mind – “There is huge outrage and anger that once again we have seen people convicted.., not on any evidence, but on the word of a [police officer].. This case should never have gone before the.. Court in the first place.. This is an unsafe judgement which mirrored the worst excesses of the Diplock Court system in the Six Counties.

That was not a reaction to the Colombian courts verdict, but SF TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh, 22nd November 2004, on the conviction of SF member Niall Bennett by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. He ended the statement by claiming – “The Special Criminal Court is entirely unacceptable and should be closed down.”

The Sinn Féin line on the Colombia verdict is “A political decision and a blatant miscarriage of justice”

So, before Bertie, Dermot or any other member of the Irish Government considers making another statement on this, or allows themselves to be led by the nose by such campaign, they should “step back and pause”, to borrow a phrase, and reflect on this.. there isn’t a justice system in the world that Sinn Féin actually endorses – not even the Irish one.

  • Henry94

    So if you want to criticise the Colombian system you have to say the Irish system is perfect? What an absurd piece of reasoning.

  • peteb


    It’s a comparison of the criticism by SF of the Irish system with SF’s criticism of the Colombian system.

    That those criticisms relate to guilty verdicts in cases involving SF activists is, of course, purely coincidental.

  • SeanOg


    Here is an uncomplicated approach to the justice system. If a non jury court can convict on the unsubstantiated word of a member of the security forces, in country’s where those same forces have been found guilty of human right’s abuses and where corruption is ongoing or being investigated, Ireland north and south and Colombia might spring to mind for example, that means there is something wrong with the system, not those who highlight the problem.

    Of course, if you can find a justice system that is not open to abuse in the manner outlined above then maybe people will be able to support it or not. Then again, maybe you subscribe to Denning’s apalling vista approach to justice, where it is better that innocent people go to prison rather a flawed system nbe exposed to the light of day.

    Me, i’d rather we identify problems in the justice system as we come across them, rather than seek to ignore them for political purposes.

  • peteb


    ‘Political purposes’ are the reason for the Sinn Féin hierarchy’s reaction to the verdicts against their members – in Colombia and in Ireland.

    And it is no surprise that those verdicts correspond to SF voicing their criticisms loudest on the Irish justice system.

    If you want to ignore that then there’s little point commenting on it further.

  • Davros

    The IRA had no problems with non-jury ‘courts’ when they were the ones doing the judging, and Sinn Féin have neither campaigned on behalf of those deemed guilty and either exiled or murdered nor taken their grieving families to the EU.

  • alex s

    last night Catriona Ruane told us that these men should be home with their families, their loved ones, today we are told that they have’t been in contact for over six months, has this woman ever told the truth?

  • Cahal

    “last night Catriona Ruane told us that these men should be home with their families, their loved ones”

    “today we are told that they have’t been in contact for over six months, has this woman ever told the truth?”

    How do these statements contradict each other in any way?

    If the first statement had been

    “last night Catriona Ruane told us that these men EXPRESSED A DESIRE TO HER WITHIN THE LAST SIX MONTHS TO be home with their families, their loved ones”

    then you would have a point.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “That those criticisms relate to guilty verdicts in cases involving SF activists is, of course, purely coincidental.”

    A bit like your involvement in the debate, purely coincidental.

  • AndrewD

    Maybe the British Justice system isn’t that bad afterall.

  • Weapons Of Crass Instruction

    “Maybe the British Justice system isn’t that bad after all”

    Yeah, sure.Just ask The Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Birmingham Six, Judith Ward, Broadwater Four, M25 Three, Pat Kane etc.

  • willowfield

    Pat Kane?

    Was he in Hue & Cry?

  • AndrewD

    Theres never justice for Sinn Fein when it doesn’t go the way they want.

  • mickhall

    It really is irrelevant that these men are Republicans, the fact is once tried and found innocent the state should not then have another bite of the cherry. Down the years at home and abroad we have allowed terrorist crime to set the legal agenda far to often. One only has to see the disgraceful situation in England where men are accused of terrorism and simply locked up without charge or trial. Never forget in many countries the law works on precedent,
    if this is so in Columbia the next person to be tried under the same law as the three, may be totally innocent. When I say innocent, I am not implying the three were guilty, as they were clearly found not to be so on all but one charge.

  • willowfield


  • SeanOg

    peteb, in hindsight i have to say that you’re 100% spot on and that it is entirely scandalous to expect SF to come up to the mark as they should do on this or any other issue. Of course political parties, or indeed governments made up of political parties, do not make any decison on a political basis and heaven forbid if they ever do.

    Indeed, now i think about it is is also entirely unreasonable to judge the British government, Irish governmnent or Colombian government against any internationally recognised legal standards when we should be comparing their record against that of the IRA. If it was okay for the IRA then it should be okay for the governments. In fact, the more i think about this the more i realise that any act can be justified if we simply ignore whether it is right or wrong and make the call based on whether someone else would do it.

  • SeanOg

    Then again, if its wrong for one person to do it because it is wrong, surely its wrong for anyone else to do it, or does it all depend on your politics?

  • Weapons Of Crass Instruction

    Pat Kane –

    Convicted at Belfast Crown Court on 30th March 1990 of being involved in a joint enterprise which led to the deaths of two soldiers at IRA man Coaimhin MacBradaigh’s funeral on March 19th 1988 and sentenced to two life sentences.

    Conviction declared unsafe on 20th June 1997 and conviction was quashed after Pat Kane served almost seven years in prison for two murders he did not commit.

    WF, I hope that your flippant comments concerning Hue & Cry were not designed to detract from the seriousness of the discussion. If they were they, ahem, aint gonna work [for you no more].

    Oh dear

  • willowfield


  • Davros

    When I say innocent, I am not implying the three were guilty, as they were clearly found not to be so on all but one charge.

    Mickhall- if original verdicts are alway correct, then should the Birmingham and Guildford etc be returned to jail ?

  • mickhall


    That is a totally different thing, the State when it charges someone with a criminal offence, has enormous resources to muster its evidence to bring the individual to trial. The onus is on the prosecution to prove the persons guilt, who is innocent until proven, in that trial. If the State were allowed to retry defeats until they eventually gained a conviction, the process would be both unfair and endless. I presume the right of appeal came about because years ago there were so many miscarriages of justice, hence the need arose, but even this is not a done deal. One has to have grounds to appeal, new evidence witnesses, forensic, etc. Now I realise I am not telling you anything you do not already know, all im saying the law about double jeopardy is there for very good reasons. Now as to the Colombian case, the State had their chance to convict in court, but it seem due to political pressures at the time they choose not to do so on the more serious charges. Times change, perhaps someone wishes to excerpt a bit of pressure or send Mr Adams a message, so the case suddenly lands on some pliable judges desk. Remember that as far as we are aware, no new evidence or witnesses were even put before this judge. Myself this being so, it is difficult not to see this as a deeply flawed judgement.
    Years ago I used to have a respect for lawyers in the north like Desmond Boal QC, who whilst being Unionists themselves, also defended Republicans before the courts. I judged the reason they did so apart from the fee was because they believed in the rule of law. Which with the shyster politicians we have to day, is increasingly becoming the first line of defence of our democratic liberties. So when a judgement is bad, as it costs little to say so, I think we should.

    Happy Christmas

  • Davros

    Mick- if you think that it is just for unreasonable verdicts to be challenged, then surely it should cut both ways ?

  • mickhall

    Davros Hello again,
    No, because the State if it loses a case is not under any sanction, it simple moves onto the next person who it accuses of law breaking and as I said it has enormous resources to call on when Trying someone, so they should complete their task one way or another the first time around. Someone who appeals is often under sanction, in prison, reputation ruined etc, and then they must also have just cause to appeal. Now it is perfectly understandable to see how an individual may be unable to muster all the evidence in his case at the first bite but less so the State.

    If you were to go down the road of double jeopardy, etc and let the prosecution have another bite at the cheery, who would decide which cases should be retried. Would all have to suffer retrial and how many times. If your found not guilty two out of three times, is that going to be good enough and your then declared innocent. Or is this to be and endless process. If not how would it be decided which people should be retried. This will be where political pressure would come in, just as it probably did recently in Columbia, for if Blair wished to tweak the PRM tail after the recent negotiations failed, what better way than to phone Bush, who then gets someone to phone Columbia, the caller would not need to ask for anything, just drop the odd hint. The Colombian who took the call would be well aware of who pays the piper calls the tune and so forth.

    But it would not only be political pressure, corruption and the old boys network would also possibly come into play. A senior Judges home is broken into and his wife raped, but the man accused of doing it was found not guilty. A senior member of the CPS went to school with the judge and thus feels strongly the old boy deserves justice, so out comes the individual who was acquitted for rape file and before you know it he is once again up the steps of the Bailey. All of the above is mere supposition on my part, im just trying to point out what a slippery slope accepting the proposition you propose would be. The law as it is, having been made by men/women, in an ever more unequal society is imperfect enough, without chipping away further at what safeguards there are. We should be very careful before we add to State power,as you never know who might one day wield it, which is something Im sure I do not need to remind a unionist of these days.

    All the Best

  • Davros

    all very well Mick, but just as political pressure, corruption , old boy networks might result in an inappropriate verdict, what if it is discovered that, for example, intimidation has occurred resulting in an inappropriate verdict.
    I don’t have to remind any republicans in the light of the media exposure of the Murder/Manslaughter fiasco centred around events in Adare 😉

    It’s not about schoolboys vs teachers , he’s a sneak etc, it’s as much about ensuring that the guilty DO get convicted (for all our sakes ) as it is about ensuring that the innocent DON’T get convicted. Surely no decent person would want a terrorist to escape justice any more than they would want a rapist to escape justice?

    Cheers 🙂

  • Jimmy Sands


    I think you have simply misunderstood the process. There was no question of double jeopardy. They were not retried. The appeal court ruled that the original decision was wrong.

    You also seem to me to be making the common mistake of viewing this case through the prism of Irish politics. Not everything is about us. The activities for which they were convicted have resulted in the deaths of dozens of innocent Colombians. It is rather arrogant to assume that they needed outside guidance to be angry about this.

  • Davros

    Does anybody know if appealing verdicts such as these are uncommon in Colombia ? Seems to me that if it’s not that uncommon in Colombian law, we have no business complaining. Always irritates me when people choose to go to places like Saudi and then complain because their system is different from the British or Irish system.

  • James

    “Does anybody know if appealing verdicts such as these are uncommon in Colombia ? Seems to me that if it’s not that uncommon in Colombian law, we have no business complaining.”

    They have the best damned justice system we can buy. I would find it hard to determine where the Colombian government begins and the DEA ends. I do know it was the only place I’ve been where there was a uniformed kid with a machine pistol on each floor of the hotel: It’s sort of like when some guy gives you a rifle and a helment and tells you to walk across a field — something should tell you that you’re in the wrong place.

  • Davros

    James, I’m being serious. There are different systems of law in place around the world. I read that the Colombian system is based on a Spanish model, which is very different from the system based on English law. If it’s a feature of Colombian law that the prosecution can appeal, SF have no business complaining that it happened in this case. After all the men CHOSE to enter Colombia illegaly. There’s an element of the old British Empire style arrogance (how ironic) about SF’s complaints. “What ? Our lads being treated like the natives ? Send in the gunboats !”.

  • mickhall

    I understand the points that both Jimmy and Davros are making and have a certain sympathy with them. However we are for ever being told by our political leaders that we live in a global economy etc, so I see no harm in pointing out the faults as I see them in the Saudi, Colombian or any other countries legal system, nor do I worry if someone points out the shortcomings of my own countries system of justice, this is one of the reasons I welcome the European Court. Indeed it often helps to have an outsiders eye. I also think Davros raises an excellent question when he asks if appealing verdicts such as these are uncommon in Colombia or do they happen in most cases, it would be interesting to know as it might shed light on how this verdict came about.

    My self I believe it is more important that the innocent are not convicted, than the guilty go free, as dreadful as this is. This being so I believe jury tampering etc should carry a mandatory life sentence. Although trial by Jury has its faults and failures, it is the best system human kind has come up with. One only has to have had a glimpse of what happened in the north of Ireland to understand this. (Diplock) To tape and plaster the jury system successfully, even from the best of motives is a very difficult thing to do.

    All the best,

  • Jimmy Sands


    Again one should hesitate before criticising a system merely because it differs from our own. Consider if you will the notorious miscarriages with which we are all no doubt familiar and you recall that every one of those verdicts was delivered by a jury.

  • mickhall

    Very true, any system that we humans create is bound to have its faults, I suppose the trick is for us to decide what is the least bad option and then stick with it.

  • Davros

    Mick – I’m hoping one of the many lawyers or lawyer-larvae who visit slugger will answer the question as to whether this was a most unusual occurrence, or something that is commonplace.

    I agree that people as a whole should protest against what we consider unjust systems. BUT it raises important points.

    1) Are we not being patronising when we point the finger at other country’s systems ?

    2) In this case are we only complaining because the perceived victims are “ours” and we wouldn’t give a damn if they had been “natives”

    3) It’s all very well to complain , but when one enters a country one has to accept that their rules apply. To think otherwise is harking back to the worst of Colonial and Imperial behaviour.

    4) Collins was realistic enough to see that Jury trials weren’t the answer to every situation- he did after all negotiate non-jury trials in the Craig-Collins pact.

  • James

    Alfonso’s 15 Minutes Of Fame:
    “Badges? …… I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

    “James, I’m being serious.” So was I, podna. In my own way, perhaps.

    People traveling south of the border have a curious habit of occasionally turning up dead, regardless of the philosophical differences between the old colonial legal codes. I’m not talking the backwoods of Colombia or Peru here, I’m talking Mexico. It is not the legal system, per se, it is the total and utterly complete corruption of the legal systems by both the bad guys and Uncle Sugar (the good guys, you know).

    Don’t get me wrong, there are perfectly safe places. It’s recognizing when you have stepped out of the safe tourist bubble that is difficult. A couple centuries of revolution, the Cold War, El Norte, United Fruit, the drug trade, (hell even the American Civil War) have had a hand in this; all of which matters little to you if you have a Federale’s gun in you mouth because you didn’t pay off enough at the roadblock.

    Your point was essentially that when you travel abroad you are playing by their rules. I agree totally and further point out that in this hemisphere there are places without any rules. There are places where the rules change from day to day and/or depend on how much cash you are carrying at the time or who you know. That is what makes the spectacle of Europeans debating the topic of the legal systems here such a giggle to anyone who has lived in this hemisphere for a while.

    Now the geeks I know who collect tropical fish have it all figured out. They rent a couple Chevy Suburbans with really dark tinted windows: Everyone assumes they are DEA and leaves them alone.

    This ain’t rocket science.

    Party on.

  • Davros

    Is collecting tropical fish like that not illegal these days ? Don’t they have to be captive bred ? if not, they should be.

  • mickhall

    James, great stuff, ah well winter sun in Mexico is off.

    I will try and answer your questions.

    !/ Yes and arrogant but we live in the West, that is what we do.:)

    2/ Well we do not really know about this, as we are still not sure yet if this is how the courts operate out their on a regular basis, Myself I would have given a dam if this had happened to Colombians, but whether I would have ever known about it is more doubtful. The silence of the Western media about what is taking place in columbia is pretty disgraceful but basically boils down to Government US friend, Farc Trade unions/the rest enemies. SF had a real opportunity here to highlight what is going on in Columbia, but it appears they tried to use back channels and ornithology.

    3/ Yes and it is not only harking back to the worst of Colonial and Imperial behaviour, it is plain stupid. Still if people were locked up in jail for being stupid, I fear we would all have done a stretch some time or other.

    4/Interesting question this, on the Collins-Craig deal I am not knowledgeable enough to give an opinion. Overall I think we should stick with juries, most Irish or English people would accept that if their country was under threat of invasion, the government has the right, if the need arose to call them up to defend it from an invader. (for the sake of this argument im leaving the border question to one side) Perhaps it is time we considered that the fabric of our society can also come under attack if people refuse or cannot sit on Juries. Doing so should be regarded as an obligation for the greater good and when powerful forces attack the system there may, as in war be causalities, Thus if one is unfortunate to be called to jury service in such a case, the state has an obligation to rehouse you etc, until any threat no longer existed. Im just saying perhaps it is time we looked at this type of problem from a different position as it will arise again and again.

    All the best.

  • James

    “Is collecting tropical fish like that not illegal these days ?”

    Read between the lines here for your answer.

    One collector was netting plecos on the Rio Negro. One of his slides showed a Venezuelan border post which he said was captured every couple of years by FARC. FARC then used the ARTILLERY at the Venezuelan border post to bombard the Colombian Army.

    Another slide showed the cafe in town they used for breakfast. The cafe was called La Cosa Nostra and it was a point of local pride to point out all the bullet holes in the sign to the visiting gringos and gringas.

    The guy who hit upon the DEA Suburban angle was collecting swordtails north of Yucatan. They had a crowd of around a dozen people and traveled in 3 Suburbans, then flew back to the states, going, of course, through two security checks on the way back to LAX.

    It isn’t against their law. Sometimes there isn’t any law.

    The only hassles are keeping the specimens alive in transit and getting them past US Customs. Ports of entry in the southeast are the only places where people have been given a hard time, perhaps because the cops are hard-nosed because of the drug trade. Anyplace else it’s a walk in the park.

    “if not, they should be. “

    Different strokes.

  • Jimmy Sands


    You make some interesting points, but your conclusion to point 4 is worrisome. You posit scenario in which the government as an alternative to non-jury courts be given the power forcibly to relocate citizens who have the misfortune to be selected for jury duty. Your cure strikes me as worse than your disease.

  • Davros

    I love plecs and all their kind. One of the nastiest experiences I had in the USA was seeing rows of bottom feeders gasping laid out in a Chinese market in San Fran. I thought the Pangolins sittin in ice bad , but….

  • Davros

    Mick : Craig Collins agreement is worth a read.

    Text of the Craig-Collins Agreement
    Heads of agreement between the Provisional Government and Government of Northern Ireland:
    (1) Peace is today declared.
    (2) From today the two Governments undertake to cooperate in every way in their power with a view to the restoration of peaceful conditions in the unsettled areas.
    (3) The Police in Belfast to be organised in general in accordance with the following conditions:
    1. Special police in mixed districts to be composed half of Catholics and half of Protestants, special agreements to be made where Catholics or Protestants are living in other districts. All specials not required for this force to be withdrawn to their homes and their arms handed in.
    2. An Advisory Committee, composed of Catholics, to be set up to assist in the selection of Catholic recruits for the special police.
    3. All police on duty, except the usual secret service, to be in uniform and officially numbered.
    4. All arms and ammunition issued to police to be deposited in barracks in charge of a military or other competent officer when the policeman is not on duty, and an official record to be kept of all arms issued, and of all ammunition issued and used.
    5. Any search for arms to be carried out by police forces composed half of Catholics and half of Protestants, the military rendering any necessary assistance.
    (4) A Court to be constituted for the trial without jury of persons charged with serious crime, the Court to consist of the Lord Chief Justice and one of the Lord Justices of Appeal of Northern Ireland. Any person committed for trial for a serious crime to be tried by that court:
    a. If he so requests, or
    b. If the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland so directs.

    Serious crime should be taken to mean any offence punishable with death, penal servitude, or imprisonment for a term exceeding six months. The Government of Northern Ireland will take steps for passing the legislation necessary to give effect to this Article.
    (5) A Committee to be set up in Belfast of equal number Catholics and Protestants with an independent Chairman, preferably Catholic and Protestant alternately in successive weeks, to hear and investigate complaints as to intimidation, outrages, etc., such Committee to have direct access to the heads of the Government. The local Press to be approached with a view to inserting only such reports of disturbances, etc., as shall have been considered and communicated by this committee.
    (6) I.R.A. activities to cease in the Six Counties, and thereupon the method of organising the special police in the Six Counties outside Belfast shall proceed as speedily as possible upon lines similar to those agreed for Belfast.

    also article an Phoblacht