Lord Morrow: Disgraceful scenes outside court involving Downey supporters

John Downey, who is facing prosecution for the murder of two soldiers in Northern Ireland is taken from Omagh Magistrates' Court in Omagh last Saturday, where he was refused bail due to the judge's assessment that he may be a flight risk. Photo: Nial Carson/PA Wire
John Downey, who is facing prosecution for the murder of two soldiers in Northern Ireland is taken from Omagh Magistrates' Court in Omagh last Saturday, where he was refused bail due to the judge's assessment that he may be a flight risk. Photo: Nial Carson/PA Wire
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I call on Sinn Fein to condemn the behaviour of John Downey’s supporters outside court, when the judge’s car was surrounded and scuffles broke out with police.

The scenes outside Omagh Courthouse after Downey was refused bail were disgraceful, with obvious attempts to intimidate the judge and police.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

The sight of an angry mob besieging the car and court exit were stark reminders of disorder, scenes we were assured had been consigned to the past.

No-one is saying people should not have been there and peaceful protest is a fundamental right, however when things didn’t go the way it was hoped, it is clear the crowd were angered and sought to make their presence known.

It was hoped those days of mob-rule intimidation were long gone but they resurfaced very blatantly on Saturday, while leading members of Sinn Fein — elected representatives among them — looked on and in some instances, remonstrated with police.

The surrounding of a judge’s car and deliberate crowding around the courthouse exit made poor, although very telling, viewing, and unacceptable by those allegedly supporting law and so too was the sight of Downey’s supporters chasing the judge’s car as police escorted him from a tense and unnecessary situation.

The sight of officers being harangued by an irate mob, while others filmed them up close on mobile phones was deplorable.

The officers on duty were simply doing their job, trying to control the crowd and prevent anti-social behaviour, but were subjected to extreme intimidation.

This, despite Sinn Fein claiming to support PSNI, the rule of law and due process.

Sinn Fein need to call off their mob and discourage this appalling show-of-strength approach. It has no part in society and did nothing to enhance Sinn Fein’s credibility.

Failure to condemn such activity will simply prove Sinn Fein are entrenched in thug mentality and hostile toward policing and justice.

In respect of Downey’s remand in custody the judge in question studied all aspects of the bail application in depth, paying particular attention to human rights. It was far from an abrupt refusal at the stroke of a pen. The facts are — painful though this may be for Sinn Fein to accept — the judge could not be satisfied Downey should be released at this stage. That of course may change in time.

From the announcement of Downey’s extraction, Sinn Fein were swift to condemn all round them, accusing the British of acting in bad faith by daring to seek the application in the first place.

Not a word was said of the Irish courts, who granted the extradition, and threw out Downey’s challenge on every level, right up to the Supreme Court.

If there had been the slightest suspicion Downey’s rights were at risk of breach by sending him to Northern Ireland to face justice, the courts would have blocked his extradition.

The fact they did not, indicates there is a case to answer and due process will be followed.

Sinn Fein are also placing heavy reliance on the ‘letter of assurance’ given to Downey and appear to be of the belief it is a permanent and all-encompassing amnesty.

That scheme, scandalous and seditious though it was, applies only in Downey’s case, to the Hyde Park atrocity. It has no bearing on the current charges of the 1974 murders of Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston and Private John Eames in a bomb attack in Enniskillen.

If that is an inconvenient truth, perhaps Sinn Fein should have paid closer attention to the specifics when concocting the scheme.

If Sinn Fein support police and the rule of law, they are by definition accepting of the court’s decisions in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, even if they don’t agree with them. To demonstrate this, they should start by condemning the actions of some on Saturday and ensure such scenes are never repeated, in this or any other case before the courts.

The justice system must be allowed to take its court without intimidation.

Lord Morrow,

DUP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone