“If I may I would like to inform the court of the reasons why I have dismissed my legal representatives and of my future intentions regarding the remainder of this trial. Firstly, I would like to thank all of my legal team for their unrelenting work over the past five weeks. I genuinely appreciate their efforts on my behalf and I sincerely thank them.
Over the past two and a half years, the Defence has steadfastly pursued all relevant Garda surveillance reports and all relevant FBI and MI5 documentation. This has been no easy task. Our difficulties were compounded by the fact that this court had no jurisdiction to compel the FBI and MI5 to disclose any relevant documentation. Furthermore, our attempts to attain disclosure of Garda surveillance reports were also continually obstructed. The court is aware that on Friday 18 July 2003, the Prosecution disclosed material that contradicted Mr. Rupert’s statement, which is contained in the book of evidence. In his statement, Mr. Rupert alleged that I attended an IRA Army Council meeting on 17 February 2000. However in contrast, the recently disclosed Garda surveillance report situates me at my home on this date. Why were these important surveillance reports withheld for two and a half years and disclosed twenty-two days into the trial, after Mr. Rupert had presented his testimony? This is just one small example of the difficulties the Defence has been faced with.
The Prosecution cannot claim that they did not have ample requests for disclosure. Nor can they point to an oversight. Twelve months ago, my solicitor, Mr. James McGuill, wrote to the state prosecutor seeking the disclosure of all relevant Garda surveillance reports. Yet disclosure was continually denied. The Defence was told that there was no relevant undisclosed material. Indeed, in October 2002, Chief-Superintendent Callanan, in an affidavit presented to this court during a four-day disclosure hearing, stated that all undisclosed documents were either irrelevant or were being withheld on grounds of national security. The recent disclosure of these extremely important surveillance reports has rendered worthless the assurances of Chief-Superintendent Callanan. Why were these relevant legal documents concealed for two and a half years on grounds of national security, only to be subsequently considered eligible for disclosure on Friday 18 July 2003, twenty two days into the trial and after Mr. Rupert has presented his evidence? The disclosure of these documents was in no way detrimental to national security. However, prompt disclosure would have been detrimental to an effective prosecution of this case and to the advantage of the Defence. Perhaps here lies the true reason for concealment?
How could Chief-Superintendent Callanan claim that these recently disclosed surveillance reports were irrelevant? These surveillance reports were clearly relevant to my case. The Defence prepared its case on the basis of Mr. Rupert’s statements, which were contained in the book of evidence. If these surveillance reports had been promptly disclosed prior to the commencement of the trial, the Defence would have reassessed its strategy, the presentation of its case and its cross-examination of Mr. Rupert. Somebody took a decision to withhold this information, which directly attacks Mr. Rupert’s credibility as a witness. I find this totally unacceptable. These developments pose a further serious question: What other material is being withheld?
However, my difficulties were not confined to Garda surveillance reports. There is a strong indication that MI5 documents were being tampered with in order to enhance the prosecution of this case. In a disclosure document dated 14 June 2002, an MI5 officer stated that Assistant Garda Commissioner Jennings urged that certain reports and I quote ‘be removed’. Furthermore, the MI5 officer then informed Assistant Garda Commissioner Jennings that other ‘trickinesses’ in certain reports were being addressed. Is this not a clear example of interference with evidence in order to bolster the prosecution of this case?
Furthermore, the discrepancies between certain MI5 documents [that refer to Mr. Rupert’s criminal past] and his testimony before this court, was simply beyond belief. I ask myself was Mr. Rupert’s evidence in relation to this matter untruthful and incredible or was the author of the MI5 document deliberately misleading the Defence? We will never know the opinions of the MI5 author, as he/she cannot be compelled to appear before this court. However, some MI5 documents were disclosed. But what was the thinking behind the disclosure of this document and many more like it? (Note: Michael shows to the court a MI5 document with the entire text blacked out.)
My decision to dismiss my legal team was a decision that was reluctantly forced upon me for the reasons I have just outlined. The prosecution of this case is founded upon concealment and not disclosure. It relies solely upon the word of an MI5 Agent whom Mr. Hugh Hartnett SC stated and I quote ‘had perjured himself during his three weeks in the witness box’. I find myself in agreement with Detective Diarmuid O’Sullivan who, during my detention in Balbriggan Garda Station on 28 March 2001 at 11AM, informed me that my arrest and arraignment was ‘a political order from on high’. For five weeks I have persevered with my legal team in asserting my innocence. But this task has been rendered impossible by the events which have transpired in this very courtroom. Therefore, I will not participate any further in this political show trial and I now withdraw with my dignity intact.”