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7 November 2002 Edition

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Gildernew accuses judge of political bias

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew has described the comments of a Belfast judge as "blatantly political, biased and further evidence of a criminal justice system operating to an anti-nationalist and anti republican agenda".

Gildernew made her comments after Diplock Judge Nichloson refused bail to Ciaran Kearney from West Belfast on Tuesday 5 November.

When refusing bail, Nicholson, without the benefit of a trial, said that Kearney led a double life by engaging in the peace process at the same time he was gathering intelligence for the IRA. And Nicholson, paraphrasing Tony Blair's recent comments, went on to accuse republicans of riding two horses.

Kearney, who works for the Falls Community Council in West Belfast, was among four people arrested last month and he was later charged with gathering information after a series of PSNI raids, including one at Sinn Féin's office at Stormont.

Gildernew said Nicholson's comments "were not the remarks of an impartial lawyer. They were the remarks of a politically biased and anti-Catholic relic of a system still geared to the persecution of nationalists and would not be out of place at a DUP party conference. It is a reminder to nationalists of how far they still have to travel to get the unprejudiced system of criminal justice promised under the Good Friday Agreement.

"The British government and other parties who argue that the Criminal Justice Review deals with the lack of nationalist and republican confidence in the judiciary would do well to reflect on Nicholson's remarks. In his work, Ciaran Kearney has organised opportunities for nationalist people to have an input into the Criminal Justice Review, but it seems nothing has changed by these blatantly political and partisan remarks," said Gildernew.

Kearney was refused bail and remanded in custody.

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