Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said the non-jury trial of a prominent republican for tax evasion was “just plain wrong”.
Reiterating his backing for Thomas “Slab” Murphy, Mr Adams described the case against the alleged former IRA leader and peace process supporter as “allegations”, despite his conviction in the courts.
“It really has not an awful lot to do with Tom Murphy. If Tom Murphy, as I have said publicly, is guilty of any offences then he will have to pay whatever sanction is made against him,” Mr Adams said.
“My issue is against the Special Criminal Court and the Offences Against the State Act, and the fact that that court was used to deal with a case which was about a failure, allegedly, which Tom Murphy contests, to make tax returns.”
Murphy, an alleged former IRA leader, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, a farm that straddles the border with Northern Ireland, was convicted of nine charges of tax evasion following a 32-day trial at Dublin’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Mr Adams said Murphy played a leading role in winning support for a series of propositions in the peace process.
The Sinn Fein leader said international human rights bodies have also argued for the three judge non-jury Special Criminal Court to be axed but the Government is creating a second division to deal with a large backlog in cases.
Mr Adams said: “The Government ministers on this issue said on this issue, this is not ideal, this is not perfect, and so on and so forth. It’s just plain wrong.”
The latest outcry over the case follows Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness praising Murphy for his support for the peace process in the border region, which he described as a “dangerous occupation”.
Mr Adams said he has not spoken to Murphy since the conviction or about the case.
The 66-year-old will be sentenced in February but can also expect a bill for unpaid taxes and penalties.
The prosecution came about after a massive raid on the Murphy farm in March 2006 by police and customs officers on both sides of the border, which turned up hundreds of thousands of pounds and euro in cash and cheques.
Murphy was charged in November 2007 but unsuccessfully fought the plans for a Special Criminal Court trial first in the High Court and then the Supreme Court.
Previously, he had unsuccessfully taken defamation proceedings against the Sunday Times after they named him as an IRA leader.
Mr Adams dismissed suggestions of divisions in Sinn Fein over the support for Murphy as “wishful thinking” in some quarters.