[Sinn Fein]

8th May 2002

O'Donoghue should concentrate on issues

Sinn Fein candidate Mary Lou McDonald this morning accused John O'Donoghue of `criticising the party's policies on justice and community issues without having read them'

Ms McDonald said:

``Since Sinn Fein published their justice and community policy last week John O'Donoghue has made a number of ill-informed criticisms. I can only conclude that the Justice Minister has not yet taken the time to read the package in its entirety.

``Instead of mounting a blanket defence of the non-jury system or opposing basic measures to make the Guards more accountable through criticisms of Sinn Fein, Mr. O'Donoghue should enter the debate on the sort of criminal justice system he wants to see created.

`` The review of Criminal Justice Legislation which we propose is an attempt to involve all of those with an interest in this area - the Gardai, the politicians, civil liberties groups and ordinary citizens.

`` Sinn Fein is committed to the creation of a society with Human Rights guarantees and protections at its core. Our proposals are aimed at outlining the most basic measures that are required to start making that goal a reality. If Mr O'Donoghue wants to debate the content and direction of the Sinn Fein manifesto then fine. However he should stick to the issues and refrain from the sort of scare-mongering that his typified his contribution to this point.

``The Irish Government is obliged under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to review the Offences Against the State Acts under which the Special Criminal Court operates. Five years later this Review is still not completed and it has been the most low-key and least debated part of the Agreement. If Minister O'Donoghue wants a real debate on these civil rights issues then he should ensure that the Review is conducted in a more public manner with oral hearings and access for ordinary citizens.

``Minister O'Donoghue should also note our proposals for real accountability of the Gardaí. The assaults on protesters by Gardaí in Dublin this week are only the latest example of why we need a Garda Ombudsman.''

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