Belfast Telegraph

SF funding cut unlawful, court told

20 January 2005

The Secretary of State acted unlawfully when he cut Sinn Fein's political funding, the High Court in Belfast was told today.

The party lost £120,000 after the International Monitoring Commission said the IRA was involved in criminal activity.

But Michael Lavery, QC, argued that the IMC was not an appropriate body to take decisions which would lead to the taking away of rights from parties and individuals.

"At best, it could be regarded as a body which would impose moral or political pressure to achieve some of the important aims of the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Lavery said at the opening of Sinn Fein's application for a judicial review of the funding cut.

Papers lodged in support of the application stated: "Sinn Fein is not the IRA and is publicly committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

Before the hearing began, Conor Murphy, leader of the Sinn Fein Assembly group, said: "This is not about money but to ensure that our party's rights are upheld."

Mr Lavery told Mr Justice Weatherup that the IMC's immunity from legal action and its procedures - based on untried evidence and intelligence - could not form a basis for a deprivation of rights.

"Their findings were fundamental to the Secretary of State's decision and because of these inherent flaws no decision can be based upon them which is compatible with the established rights of the applicant," he said.

"There must be a credible link between Sinn Fein and the activities in question.

"For such activities to be used to find that Sinn Fein is not committed to non-violence, it would have to be shown the party had control over such activities or their perpetrators and could have prevented them or, at the very least, that they condoned them."

Mr Lavery submitted that the IMC had not shown any evidential connection between the alleged activities of the IRA and Sinn Fein.

He added: "It is not sufficient for the IMC to conclude that violent or criminal activities were occurring.

"The activities in question must involve the use of violence for political ends."

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