A Dublin court has insisted on going ahead with a non-jury trial of H-Block escapee and IRA prison leader Brendan “Bik” McFarlane on charges dating from 1983.
Sinn Féin described the decision by the 26-County High Court as deeply flawed and nonsensical and labelled the process a judicial farce.
Mr McFarlane had challenged legal proceedings on the grounds that several years delay in providing a hearing and determination of the proceedings within a reasonable time had exposed him to the risk of an unfair trial.
Refusing the application, Mr Justice John Quirke, sitting in Dublin, claimed that Mr McFarlane had not established that his rights had been affected, and that any unnecessary delay did not warrant prohibition of a trial.
McFarlane was the leader of the IRA PoWs during the 1981 Hunger Strike at Long Kesh prison and escaped in the mass breakout by 38 prisoners from the jail in September 1983.
He was arrested in Amsterdam in January 1986, extradited to the North of Ireland and released from Long Kesh in 1997.
Mr McFarlane was eventually arrested by Gardai police outside Dundalk in January 1998 in connection with IRA activity in the 26 Counties and has been remanded on bail since then pending the outcome of various legal challenges to his trial.
Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Aengus O Snodaigh said:
“During earlier hearings into this case gardai had to admit to losing all of the alleged evidence against Brendan McFarlane. That should have been the end to the matter.
“However, in a vindictive move the director of public prosecutions sought to go down the road of a trial.
“The decision to allow a trial to proceed in a case where the guards have lost the supposed evidence is deeply flawed and nonsensical. Republicans will be angered by this turn of events.
“Brendan McFarlane is a solid supporter of the Peace Process and Sinn Féin will continue to demand the end of this judicial farce.”