Who's watching the watchers?

“Is it normal in peacetime that the Army would access this information in this way?”

asked Pat Rabbitte after it was revealed that the army had used the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act to access the personal telephone records of Irish citizens last year.

He further queried:

“Am I the only one who thinks it odd that according to the Data Protection Commissioner, the gardaí made over 10,000 requests in 2006, the equivalent of almost 30 requests daily to access records.”

Oddest of all, however, is that the High Court judge designated to have oversight of the legislation and to report to the Taoiseach, says the documents he has inspected related to those located in the premises of the Army. No report about Garda requests for access has been laid before the Oireachtas, as is apparently required.

Summary:

Tens of thousands of requests for access to personal telephone records on Irish citizens are made by the police and army.

The legislative requirement that a report on such activities be laid before the Oireachtas was not complied with in respect to the Garda requests. It is not known whether the High Court judge designated to oversee the legislation has the power or the will to question such an omission.

When the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, the man ultimately responsible for the civil rights of Irish citizens was asked if he was happy that proper procedures were in place, he said he could not answer because he did not have the facts.

Previous post on this matter here

Light year promises

As always, Irish Times cartoonist, Martyn Turner hits the nail on the head.

Linking the discovery of an earth like planet with the failure by Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, to provide clean drinking water, the caption reads:

“They’re going to name it planet Dick Roche as it holds out the promise of clean water, but it’s light years away.”

Imagine…

Imagine the following scenario. You’re living in a country where a government minister deliberately sets out to break the law in order to gain some cheap publicity in the run up to a general election. To achieve his aim the minister recruits a number of fellow citizens, thus implicating them in his illegal activities.

When the damage caused by the government minister is repaired at taxpayer’s expense, he expresses disappointment at such action and accuses the state body involved of being “overly vigilant” in enforcing the law.

Minister of State Pat the Cope Gallagher has said he will face “whatever consequences” for putting up posters around Croke Park in Dublin yesterday, in contravention of anti-littering legislation.

The posters, which also wished the Donegal football team well, were erected on lamp-posts to coincide with the county’s semi-final match against Kildare in the Allianz football league, at Croke Park yesterday.

Mr Gallagher, Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal South West, told The Irish Times he and party workers had put up 30 posters along Drumcondra Road at 8am yesterday. and he thought it “very disappointing” that Dublin City Council litter wardens had cut down all but two of them by 1 pm.

The posters show a head shot of Mr Gallagher with the slogan: “Pat the Cope for Donegal. Donegal for the League.”

Dublin City Council staff used knives on extendable poles to cut down the posters and a spokeswoman for the council confirmed they had been illegally erected.

“If anyone wants to put up posters on public property in the Dublin City Council area they must get permission from the council, so those posters would be illegal. There is also the fact that election posters can only be put up during the term of the election, ie when the election has been called and it hasn’t been yet.”

Mr Gallagher however said the posters were not political.

“There were no votes in them. They were just to wish the team well. I understand it was Dublin Corporation who took them down. I had the idea to put them up on Friday and we had the design cleared by noon yesterday and I picked them up yesterday evening.

“We were out early this morning, putting them up at about 8am. I have put them up and down the country before, and at Dalymount Park in Dublin too in the past.

“I’m not one for breaking the law. All I’m saying is I think the corporation were being overly vigilant,” he said.

Far from feeling shame or remorse for his actions, the minister is defiant and is delighted with the support he received from other citizens for his illegal activities.

Imagine that corruption in this country is so rampant, so much a part of its culture that the minister’s illegal activities go almost unnoticed. There is no outrage, no widespread media reporting/analysis of his actions; no questions asked by his fellow politicians and not even a hint that he might be sacked or face any consequences as a result of his illegal acts.

Imagine, that in this country, the ‘cute hoorism’ of the politician involved, Fianna Fail TD and Minister of State Pat the Cope Gallagher, is accepted as ‘normal’. That many citizens cannot or will not make a connection between this minister’s illegal activities and the massive damage being done to the country by the deadly disease of corruption.

Imagine, in this country, the shock and disbelief of those citizens if it was suggested to them that the minister’s behaviour is part of a culture that can ultimately results in serious consequences for others, like the people involved in this case.

Irony of ironies

After years of passionate campaigning by environmentalists and locals to stop Indaver setting up their incinerators; after years of official backing (sometimes with very questionable decisions) the company itself has pulled the plug because of government incompetence.

Surely, environmentalists will be looking to bottle this official incompetence as a potent weapon in future battles.