Supporters protest at éirígí frontman’s pre-trial hearing

October 7, 2013

By Christine Keighery

Despite heavy rain showers, over forty members and supporters of the socialist republican party, éirígí , were joined by the partner, parents and other relatives of Stephen Murney last Wednesday morning, as they held an hour long protest outside Newry court-house , where the éirígí member’s pre-trial hearing took place.

According to éirígí general secretary, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, the prosecution service had been instructed by a court six weeks beforehand to be prepared for the committal hearing last Wednesday 2nd October, but papers relating to the case were only served on Mr Murney late on Tuesday 1st October. The delay, he claims, was “clearly designed to leave insufficient time for Mr Murney and his defence team to properly examine all the documents relating to the case.”

During the short hearing, which was adjourned until Tuesday 15th October when full legal submissions will be heard, defence solicitor Peter Corrigan, made a formal protest to the court regarding the behaviour of the PSNI in the court-house that morning.

Mr Corrigan stated that PSNI personnel had video-recorded three elected members of Dail Eireann as they spoke with members of Stephen Murney’s family inside the court-house.  He requested that his protest be formally entered in the court record.

The three TD’s – Clare Daly, Maureen O’Sullivan and Mick Wallace,  had attended the court to observe proceedings in the case.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, Clare Daly TD raised Stephen Murney’s case during question time in Leinster House with Coalition minister, Eamonn Gilmore.

Mr MacCionnaith levelled further criticism at Mr Murney’s treatment on the day, claiming that he had been forcibly strip-searched twice in Maghaberry prison as he was taken to court and then again on his return from prison.

“From the time he was transported from prison until his return, Stephen had been hand-cuffed at all times and was guarded by several prison warders and heavily armed PSNI personnel” said Mr MacCionnaith.

“He remained hand-cuffed throughout the short court hearing and was continuously flanked by several prison warders. At no time was there the remotest possibility of Stephen having any contact with members of his family or the public.

“Given those circumstances, there could be no justification for strip-searching him other than that of malice and vindictiveness. The continued use of strip-searching has been widely condemned by a number of international human rights organisations who have described the practice as inhuman, degrading and a violation of the individual. “

Speaking about the court case, the éirígí general secretary continued,

“Stephen Murney has now been imprisoned for ten months on the basis of extremely spurious and concocted charges. All those who have studied and examined the background to these charges have concluded that there is no case to answer.

“However, the PSNI, the prosecution and the court system in the Six Counties have successfully colluded with each other to ensure that Stephen has now been imprisoned for almost a year.

“Wednesday’s hearing again resulted in yet more unacceptable delays with the dual purpose of prolonging Stephen’s imprisonment and penalising his family.

“Despite all this, Stephen and his family remain in good spirits and remain confident that he will be completely vindicated of those charges laid against him.”