Jailing of man for IRA membership a miscarriage of justice

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The Special Criminal Court in Dublin has admitted that the case of a County Louth man who spent more than a year in prison for IRA membership constitutes a miscarriage of justice.

The court issued its judgment on Monday, 12 April. It said there has been “a grave defect in the administration of justice” in the case of Dundalk man Michael Connolly. He had denied he was a member of the IRA, but was convicted and jailed in June 2017.

The juryless court has faced international condemnation for its railroading convictions of Irish republicans. Under the draconian 1939 legislation which constituted the court, a simple accusation by a senior Garda, known as “belief evidence”, is considered sufficient for conviction if it is corroborated by any other piece of evidence.

However, the conviction of Michael Connolly was overturned the following year by the Court of Appeal. Returning to the Special Criminal Court for a retrial, the court admitted that the so-called “belief evidence” was essentially a repetition of the main prosecution allegation, that the 47-year-old had been seen driving in convoy behind another man who was found with the explosives.

The court accepted there might have been “double counting” of the accusations contained in the Garda file and the book of evidence.

The officer, who alleged in court that Mr Connolly was an IRA member, claimed he had not seen the book of evidence and did not know what was in it. The court described this assertion as “seriously incomplete and misleading”.

Admissions of miscarriages of justice are extremely rare in the 26 Counties, and there have only been about 12 such declarations in the last 30 years. Mr Connolly is expected to receive significant compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

CIARAN MAGUIRE CLOSER TO EXTRADITION

Meanwhile, Saoradh has expressed its disgust following a decision in Dublin to reject an appeal against the extradition of Ciarán Maguire this week.

It is expected the Dubliner will now be handed over to the PSNI and be formally charged with IRA membership and an attack on a member of the PSNI, before being brought to Maghaberry prison.

At a previous extradition hearing in 2017, a judge in Dublin admitted that practices in Maghaberry, particularly forced strip searching, were inhumane.

Saoradh has called on republicans to continue to express their opposition to extradition and to support Ciarán Maguire.

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