Gombeen democracy v real democracy

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

There has been a great deal of arrogant criticism in this country about the manner in which the British political system is dealing with the Brexit crisis.

But comments in a recent speech by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, highlighted the difference between a real democracy like the UK and a gombeen democracy like ours.

May was responding to those who are calling for a second referendum:

The latest plan is to hold a second referendum. They call it a ‘people’s vote’, but we had the people’s vote and the people chose to leave. A second referendum would be a politician’s vote, politician’s telling people, you got it wrong the first time so try again. Think for a moment what it would do for faith in our democracy if having asked the people of this country to take this decision politicians try to overturn it. Those of us who do respect the result, whichever side of the question we stood on two years ago need to come together now.

May is spot on in describing the idea of a second referendum as a ‘politician’s vote’. In our pretend democracy we’ve had two such ‘politician’s votes’ in recent years when the democratic will of the people wasn’t in line with the interests of the ruling elite so the result was thrown out and the people were forced to ‘try again’.

 

Dan Boyle: Corruption…what corruption?

 

By Anthony Sheridan

I recently engaged in a twitter discussion with former Green Party TD Dan Boyle on the question of politican corruption. Incredibly, and somewhat depressingly, Mr. Boyle does not believe that political corruption is a major problem, he does not believe that political corruption is principally responsible for most of the damage and suffering inflicted on Irish citizens over the decades.

Indeed, despite years of direct political involvement Mr. Boyle claims he has no direct evidence of the disease.

I believe corruption exists but I have no specific evidence of it.

Here’s the verbatim account of our discussion.

 

Dan Boyle:  The significant whataboutery of many in Irish life, reacting negatively to the latest in horror homelessness stories, shows the horrible link that when becoming richer as an economy we seem to become poorer as a society.

Anthony Sheridan: Ah yes, once again it’s the royal ‘we’ that’s to blame. This avoids the brutal truth – the corrupt Centre of Irish politics is responsible

Dan Boyle:  We all exist in a society. You don’t isolate. Nothing ‘royal’ about it. Bigger picture exists despite personal animosity.

Anthony Sheridan:  You do isolate, you identify the guilty (in this case, corrupt politicians) and make them accountable. The ‘we’ generalisation is a cop out.

Dan Boyle:  To you it is. Choose isolation if you want. All it leads to is constant conflict and little, if any, progress.

Anthony Sheridan:  Your reply does not make sense. Focus on the brutal truth – our corrupt politicians are responsible.

Dan Boyle:  Your use of the phrase ‘corrupt politicians’ is meaningless. It’s a convenient catch all phrase that doesn’t forward debate in any way at all.

Anthony Sheridan:  Wow…that’s an incredible comment given the massive suffering, loss and even death as a direct result of political corruption. No wonder the Greens are in the waiting room of extinction.

Dan Boyle:  Of course there are politicians who are corrupt, but most politicians regardless of where they sit on the policy spectrum, are not. Pretending they are, and using politicians as a generic reason for all that is wrong in society, is just plain wrong.

Anthony Sheridan:  It is not just some corrupt politicians, the political system itself is rotten to the core. You are an insider and like all insiders you are blind to the rot all around you. The countless victims of political corruption do not have the luxury of ignoring the brutal reality.

Dan Boyle:  I’m not an insider but I am someone who has had experience of where and how the system falls down. You put this down to corruption, I put it down to competence. Where the system most falls down is where those in charge have no accountability mechanisms.

Anthony Sheridan:  You are an insider, It’s deeply disturbing how unaware establishment politicians are of the true nature of political corruption. I’m confident that in time the rotten system will be brought down and replaced with honest politics. We’ll have to agree to disagree until that day.

Dan Boyle:  I’m not an insider I hold no public office. I believe corruption exists but I have no specific evidence of it. Laws need to be strengthened and greater resources given to help prosecute more. Corruption needs to be eliminated but lack of competence is the real problem.

Anthony Sheridan:  Your admission that you have no specific evidence of corruption defies belief. The disease of corruption is obvious and rampant throughout the political and administrative system. You live in a bubble of denial Mr. Boyle, a fact that does enormous damage to the Irish people.

Dan Boyle:  I speak honestly on the basis of my experience. If specific evidence was made available to me I would have acted on it. If such evidence is available to you, I would encourage you to have it acted on. Most failures in Irish politics are as a result of cock ups not conspiracies.

Anthony Sheridan:  I am genuinely astonished at your apparent ignorance of the rampant corruption within the political/administrative sectors. Clearly, you pay little attention to news and current affairs. Such ignorance is a guarantee that the guilty will continue to thrive.

Dan Boyle:  Again not what I’m saying. Convictions depend on evidence of sufficient quality. Corruption exists. It is notoriously hard to prove. But I’ll repeat lack of competence is the greater cause of maladministration in Irish public services.

Anthony Sheridan:  We’re going around in circles now. Just to finish, it is deeply disturbing and bodes ill for the future of our country if your ignorance and naivety are common [and I suspect that is the case] within the body politic. Thank you for engaging in the discussion.

Dan Boyle:  You can call me ignorant as much as you like. You have no greater information or experience on this than anyone else has. Your shock and scorn is immaterial.

Anthony Sheridan:  It’s not about me, it’s about ridding our country of the disease of political corruption, clearly there’s a long road ahead.

Copy to:

Dan Boyle

 

Citizenship status has been removed from the Irish people

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

The people of Ireland should know that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party have removed the status of citizenship from them and replaced it with the inferior status of ‘customer’.

The process was initiated in 1997 and has been refined and expanded upon ever since. Ministers and civil servants no longer address citizens as citizens but as customers.

For example, during a recent interview on RTEs Today with Sean O’Rourke  [July 2 – 2nd report] the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty referred to old age pensioners as ‘customers’.

Thinking that this may have been a ministerial slip of the tongue I had a look at Ms. Doherty’s department website and found that the status of citizenship had indeed been removed and substituted with the lesser title of ‘customer’ [See below for example].

A quick search across other departments confirmed that this is official policy. Here for example is an extract from the Department of the Taoiseach:

Our Commitment to our Customers

The Department of the Taoiseach is committed to providing a professional, efficient and courteous service to all our customers…We will treat all our customers equally and make every effort to ensure that the services we provide reflect your needs and expectations.

This is a deeply disturbing development as it strikes at the very core of the democratic relationship between citizen and state. It strongly implies that ministers and state officials have taken ownership of the power, wealth and resources of the state. That they, and not the citizenry are – The State.

It implies that [now former] citizens are mere ‘customers’ that must comply with laid down conditions if they wish to ‘do business’ with the new owners of the state.

This quote, taken from the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform, makes it crystal clear that it is the department that is the provider of goods and services and the citizen is the customer:

Deliver quality services with courtesy, sensitivity and the minimum delay, fostering a climate of mutual respect between provider and customer.

The development further implies that ministers and civil servants no longer see themselves as (civil/public) servants, elected and employed to serve people and country but rather as wielders of state power over and superior to the power of the people.

I spoke about the issue with a senior official in the Dept. of the Taoiseach who was genuinely surprised that I thought the matter was of any importance.

Here’s why I believe the issue is of crucial importance:

Democracy literally means ‘rule by the people’. Not by politicians or civil servants but by the citizenry. In representative democracies certain elected citizens are temporarily appointed to govern on behalf of the people. They are granted state power by the people to govern on behalf of the people but the possession of that power does not raise their status above that of any other citizen. It does not create a relationship whereby the politician is master and the citizen is a customer.

Similarly, many citizens are employed to serve the State on behalf of the people across a wide range of government departments but no individual civil servant possesses a status or a power above that of any other citizen, they remain servants to the democracy of the people.

This policy of downgrading the sacrosanct status of citizenship by replacing it with the inferior and cheap status of ‘customer’ is obnoxious to the very meaning of democracy.

Customer means:

A person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

In the world of trade this is a perfectly legitimate definition. An individual becomes a customer when they decide to purchase goods or services from the owner of a business.

In a functional democracy citizens do not purchase goods or services from politicians or state officials operating under the illusion that they own these goods and services. Citizens avail of goods and services that they (the citizens) have provided for the greater good of all the people. It is the function of politicians and officials to serve the people by organising and dispensing these goods and services according to need. They do so as fellow and equal citizens, not as overseers doing business with customers.

Citizenship means:

The status of a person recognised under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.

It’s unlikely that this removal of the status of citizenship is a deliberate conspiracy to weaken democracy but that is exactly what it will do.  Once a concept is accepted by an authority it quickly becomes the norm.

That’s why the official I spoke to at the Dept. of the Taoiseach was so puzzled by my concerns. She has already accepted those who deal with her department are not citizens but customers and therefore should be dealt with as such.

Similarly with Minister Doherty. She obviously feels totally at ease in referring to citizens as customers. But by so doing she is over-turning the centuries long democratic principle that politicians and state officials are servants to the people and not, as the term ‘customer’ suggests, masters over the citizenry.

But even more crucially the Minister has lost sight of the most important democratic principle of all – that citizens ARE the state and therefore can never be customers to it.

Copy to:

Minister Doherty

Official at Dept. of Taoiseach

All political parties

Media

 

 

From the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website:

The Department of Social Protection delivers an extensive range of services nationwide, to a wide and diverse group of customers including families, jobseekers, people in employment, people with illnesses and disabilities, carers, older people and employers. These schemes and services are delivered locally through a national network
of Intreo Centres and Branch Offices and from centralised offices countrywide.

 

 

From the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform

Foreword by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Mr. Brendan Howlin, T.D.

On 17th November, I launched the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan.

This Plan sets out our strategy to radically reform how we deliver public services in the years ahead. One of the key themes of the Plan is placing Customer Service at the core of everything we do. An important commitment in this regard is to continue to drive the Customer Charter initiative in the Public Service, particularly with regard to consultation with customers, identification of service targets and channels, and reporting annually on progress.

The Customer Charter Initiative gives customers a clear and unambiguous statement of the level of service they can expect. It also provides a framework that allows us, as public servants, to measure and improve the quality of services provided and to report on this publicly.

Our interactions with customers, whether this is with the general public or businesses, set the basis for how we are perceived. We all know that Ireland is currently in a challenging position economically, but we must also bear in mind that we have an increasingly complex and diverse customer base with growing customer expectations.

The Customer Charter process allows organisations to engage with their customers to design their services better and to become more flexible and responsive to the needs of services users. While the Charter process has been successful, we must continue to aim higher and to further strengthen and deepen the customer service improvement process. The Customer Charters and Action Plans being prepared for 2012-2014 should build on past successes and learn from previous challenges.

These practical guidelines for Public Service organisations for the preparation of Customer Charters were first published in 2003, and revised in 2008. I am now pleased to introduce the third iteration of these Guidelines, which have been revised and updated in light of the Programme for Government, the Public Service Reform Plan and the evolving nature of service delivery generally. These Guidelines also cover Customer Action Plans, which should be used as the vehicle for achieving the objectives set out in Charters.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Quality Customer Service Officers’ Network, who have been central to the Charter process over the past decade, for their work in the preparation of these Guidelines and for their continuing commitment to the implementation of Quality Customer Service in the Irish Public Service.

Brendan Howlin, T.D.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

January, 2012

 

Tuam babies: Minister Zappone to opt for cover-up?

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will shortly make a recommendation to Government on what is to be done about the remains of the hundreds of children dumped in a septic tank in Tuam by the Catholic Church.

She has two choices:

She can recommend a full forensic excavation of the site along with DNA analysis or she can recommend the erection of a memorial to the victims

The first option will mean the State accepting responsibility for its part in the horror and by so doing force the Catholic Church to admit its crimes against humanity. In a sentence, this option will deliver justice and closure to the victims and survivors of the horror.

The second option is to leave the remains where they were discarded, place a memorial over the site and walk away. In a sentence, this option will inflict another injustice on the victims and protect the guilty politicians and clergy from being made accountable.

We don’t have to wait for Minister Zappone’s decision, we already know she will opt for the second option – why?

Because Minister Zappone operates within a corrupt political/administrative system that will instruct her to opt for cover-up rather than justice.

She may, of course, possess the courage to challenge state power and be willing to suffer the personal and career consequences that would inevitably follow.

Unfortunately for the people of Ireland, courage among politicians is as rare as justice for the State’s many victims.

Copy to:

Minister Zappone

 

Disclosures Tribunal: Truth and lies

 

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.

By Anthony Sheridan

Judge Charleton has made an impressive start to the Disclosures Tribunal. It’s a pity his fine words are meaningless in the context of the sewer of corruption within which it will be carried out.

Here’s the reality behind his fine words:

He wants to find out if the media was used as an instrument for the dissemination of lies. Far from being used, the media were willing conspirators in the lies spread about Maurice McCabe.

The dogs in the street or at least the media dogs that live close to and sometimes off politicians and government officials were more than willing to spread the muck on McCabe.

Judge Charleton warned that there could be consequences for those who lie at the tribunal.

I have no doubt that the judge is genuine in his warning but, again, his words are meaningless. Lying under oath is a long established tradition among the ruling elite in this country. Bertie Ahern lied under oath at the Mahon tribunal with not the slightest fear that he would be investigated never mind actually charged with a crime. The culture of lying created by our corrupt politicians still holds power.

Just last week we witnessed the current Taoiseach lying through his teeth but instead of being thrown out of office in disgrace his mealy-mouthed supporters demanded that he be treated with sympathy and respect.

I’m not quite sure what the Judge meant when he said:

The truth is bitter though it is not shameful.

I believe truth is sometimes bitter but always enlightening, always cleansing. Truth is a vital element in a functional democracy, that’s why it’s such a rarity in Irish politics.

Truth poses the greatest threat to the power of our corrupt political/administrative system. That’s why the State goes to such lengths to suppress the truth, that’s why citizens like Maurice McCabe are attacked by the State when they try to expose the truth.

I wish judge Charleton the best in his attempts to expose the truth but in the end it will be a wasted exercise because the tribunal system was designed by our corrupt politicians with the specific aim of suppressing truth.

Young Irish citizens: Time for revolution

youth-has-never

By Anthony Sheridan

 

Lorraine Courtney is not happy about how the State treats young people.

We are owed a place in society, a voice in politics and the media; jobs created for us; houses built for us and wages that we can live on.

Young people are not apathetic, but we are disaffected. Everyone I talk to has a thousand opinions on the political and economic situation. That’s not apathy. But changing things at a top level seems so unrealistic that we go back to the ground, and it’s impossible to try to change things from there.

So, she lists her entitlements and then states that, really, there’s not much we (young people) can do about the situation.

It’s impossible to try to change things.

Here’s a mad idea.

Do what students/young people have been doing for decades in practically every other Western country when they come up against rotten/corrupt administrations.

Get off your butt. Demand that student unions give up engaging in polite protests against fee hikes and unites to form a radical movement to lead the youth (or even the nation) in a campaign against political corruption.

Come out from your colleges and your parent’s comfortable homes and join the water protesters (made up mostly of children, middle aged and elderly citizens) who have already set the revolution ball rolling.

Then, and only then, will the young and every other citizen get real democracy, accountability and a decent society.

Copy to:

Lorraine Courtney

Afghanistan/Ireland: Same corruption culture

karzai_clean_up_corruption_cartoon

By Anthony Sheridan

There are 167 countries listed on the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International (TI) for 2015.

The least corrupt country (Denmark) comes in at number one. The most corrupt is Somalia at 167.

Ireland is 18 while Afghanistan comes in as the second most corrupt country at 166.

Ireland’s high rating does not come anywhere near reflecting the actual level of corruption in the country.

This can be clearly demonstrated by comparing a special report by TI on corruption in Afghanistan with similar corruption in Ireland.

This article is based on a news report by Al Jazeera on the TI report. I suspect that many Irish citizens would be shocked to learn that Ireland is, in many ways, even more corrupt than Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: The former CEO of Kabul bank Khalilullah Ferozi was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in stealing 900 million USD.

Ireland: A judge refused to jail two bank directors who were found to have committed a serious crime because the financial regulator had given the green light to the illegal share-buying scheme for which they were convicted.

So, two criminal bankers are effectively set free after being found guilty of a serious crime and, much more seriously, no action whatsoever is taken against the state regulator who gave the go-ahead for the crime.

Afghanistan: With the backing of powerful politicians Ferozi was soon released from jail and signed a multi-million dollar real estate deal with the blessing of government officials.

Ireland: Because of the backing of powerful politicians criminal bankers/property developers never go to jail in the first place. Dodgy and outright criminal deals are not uncommon in the Irish business community, particularly deals involving state funds. Government officials seldom question these deals.

Afghanistan: Corruption still plagues the country despite an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community to reform the system.

Ireland: Corruption has yet to be even acknowledged as a reality by the state. Despite an almost weekly diet of corrupt revelations the issue itself is never actually discussed or acted upon.

Afghanistan: According to TI the country is still beset by rampant bribery within the police department, a justice department manipulated by politicians and government employees hired on the basis of whom they know.

Ireland: Corruption is rampant within the police force particularly at higher levels. Politicians openly manipulate the justice department, even to the point of sacking a police commissioner for political reasons, and many government employees are hired on the basis of whom they know.

Afghanistan: How do you fight corruption when the Government itself is corrupt?

Ireland: It is not just the government that is corrupt; the state itself is intrinsically corrupt.

Afghanistan: The report calls for a new independent body to fight corruption. An independent commission to train and appoint judges and a new Attorney General with a record of fighting crime.

Ireland: An independent body to fight corruption has never even been proposed never mind actually discussed as a serious idea. There is no independent commission to train and appoint judges. There is a body that advises politicians about the appointment of judges but this is merely a fig leaf to give the impression that there is no direct link between politicians and the appointments of judges.

Ireland has never appointed an Attorney General with a record of fighting corruption.

Afghanistan: Government response to the TI report:

We’re in the process of overhauling the whole system of fighting corruption.

Ireland: Politicians, government officials, police and most of the media have yet to even acknowledge that there is a need to create, never mind overhaul, a system to fight corruption.

Afghanistan: The president of Afghanistan finds himself in a very delicate position. If he’s not serious about fighting corruption he risks losing credibility and pubic trust. If he is serious he risks going toe to toe with some of the country’s most powerful people.

Ireland: This choice presents no problem for mainstream Irish politicians. For decades they have blatantly sided with the corrupt and still do even though a large percentage of the people have lost trust in the system.

Afghanistan: It was the backing of powerful people that helped convicted embezzler Ferozi to get out of jail to sign the real estate deal. It was only when Afghans became outraged that the president voided the agreement and pushed prosecutors to send Ferozi back to prison.

Ireland: Embezzlers who are friendly with politicians never go to jail in the first place. Irish citizens who express anger about the very close links between politicians and corrupt businessmen are likely to find themselves questioned by the police.

Afghanistan: Perhaps a glimmer of hope (the sending of Ferozi back to prison) in a crisis that has cost this country billions of dollars and public trust that’s impossible to measure.

Ireland: There is no glimmer of hope from the mainstream parties or from so-called law enforcement agencies. But there is great hope from the rapidly growing bottom-up movement of ordinary people who have rejected the culture of corruption that has inflicted so much suffering.

Copy to:
Transparency International

corruption-685x342

Fergus Finlay: Living in the cave of shadows

Fight Corruption in Politics-by-Elkwaet
Fight Corruption in Politics-by-Elkwaet

We have betrayed one of our fellow citizens. We need to feel a sense of shame about that.

This is the opinion expressed by Fergus Finlay in an article about a woman who suffered unspeakable and degrading cruelty at the hands of the state.

On the assumption that the ‘we’ Mr. Finlay speaks of includes me I want to make my position crystal clear.

I am in no way responsible for the horrors inflicted on this woman by the state.

I strongly believe, however, that Mr. Finlay is responsible, at least to some extent, for what happened to her and that he should indeed hang his head in shame for the part he has played in her suffering.

I am in no way responsible because I have been campaigning against political/administrative corruption in Ireland since 1982 when I first realised that I lived in an intrinsically corrupt state.

If influential political operators/opinion makers like Mr. Finlay arrived at the same conclusion at the same time it is highly likely that this woman would never have suffered because she would have been living in a functional democracy where justice and accountability were an ingrained aspect of governance.

But this woman did not and does not live in a functional democracy.

She lives in a state where politicians can be filmed openly asking for bribes and not only are they not arrested and charged but are allowed to continue in office. Political corruption is to blame for this.

She lives in a country where corrupt politicians are allowed to sit in our parliament as if they were individuals of principle and integrity. Political corruption is to blame for this.

She lives in a country where politicians regularly manipulate the law to help their friends or spy on journalists and ordinary citizens to protect their own corrupt interests. Political corruption is to blame for this.

She lives in a country where bankers, property developers and other powerful groups receive massive financial, political and legal support at the expense of the state and its people. Political corruption is to blame for this.

But most of all she lives in a country where the state frequently intervenes, sometimes illegally, to protect the powerful and the corrupt. Political corruption is to blame for this.

Mr. Finlay is, of course, in no way corrupt himself. Indeed, he is a man of passionate anger when it comes to the many injustices that are frequently exposed in our state. But in addition to anger Mr. Finlay frequently expresses puzzlement about the endless stream of corruption that has blighted our country since independence.

Here’s why he is puzzled.

Corruption-Saturates-Asia-Stifling-Economic-Growth

Mr. Finlay lives in Plato’s cave of shadows. He firmly believes that the mainstream political parties are real. Trapped within his cave he does not see that they are merely shadows masquerading as democratic entities.

He does not see that Ireland, unique among Western democracies, is ruled by a single political class made up principally of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour. He does not see that these fake entities play a game of election musical chairs as each in turn, or together in coalition, plunder the nation’s resources.

He does not see that this corrupt political class has spread the disease of corruption throughout the land but particularly within the civil and public service where loyalty to the state and its people has been, largely, abandoned.

He does not seem to be aware that since the catastrophe of 2008 this corrupt political regime has been engaged in a life or death struggle with a significant and growing percentage of the population who have been politically radicalised and are determined to rid their country of the disease of political corruption.

Mr. Finlay does not see all this because he lives in the cave with the shadows. All he sees are shadows posing as democratic politicians, shadows that pose as law enforcement agencies, shadows that pose as accountable government departments but in reality are nothing more than obedient lapdogs to their corrupt political masters.

Blinding flashes of truth from outside the cave increasingly encroach on Mr. Finlay’s comfortable existence in the cave of shadows. His anger and puzzlement continues to grow as he witnesses the ever increasing incidence of abuse and corruption

The recent brutal treatment of Grace by the state is just one of countless cases of abuse and corruption that has triggered his anger over many, many years.

And yet, Mr. Finlay has never once stopped to take a hard look at the shadows and ask the most obvious question – are they real, have I been wasting my entire life shouting at shadows?

I have never lived in the cave of shadows. That’s why I could see I was living in an intrinsically corrupt state in 1982. That’s why I’m not to blame for the horror visited upon Grace by the state.

My anger is, and has always been, directed at the true source of Grace’s suffering, the corrupt political/administrative system that continues to inflict so much damage and suffering on the people of our state.

I’m sure Mr. Finlay will strongly disagree with my analysis but to do so with any credibility he must answer the following question.

Why is it that decade after decade after decade we witness the same horrors, the same corruption originating from the same political/administrative system without ever witnessing accountability or justice?

How many more Grace’s have to suffer unspeakable cruelty before Mr. Finlay walks out of the cave of shadows into the light of reality?

I hope it’s not too many.

Copy to:
Fergus Finlay

culture-of-corruption

Free speech under state attack in Ireland

kavanagh_12_682x40_1387701a

I do not agree with the water charges protester who called President Higgins a midget parasite.

I do, however, totally and unconditionally support the quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Neither does the writer Salman Rushdie pull his punches on this issue.

Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn’t exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended it is your problem, and frankly lots of things offend lots of people.

The Irish state, probably under instructions from the current government, does not tolerate such freedom of speech.

This contempt for the universal concept of freedom of speech is most clearly demonstrated by the charging of four citizens with the allegation that they insulted the president as his convoy sped past.

Specifically, they are facing a charge of:

Using threatening, insulting or abusive language.

Let me be absolutely clear about what’s going on here:

It is nothing less than state oppression. It is an abuse of the law and manipulation of state agencies in order to inflict political punishment against those who disagree with government policy.

Another quote from Voltaire makes the point:

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

In a functional democracy every citizen should have the right to call the president or any other citizen a midget parasite. In a robust, functional democracy nobody has the right not to be offended.

In a dysfunctional democracy like Ireland, where the corrupt political/administrative system is facing a serious challenge from disaffected citizens, such freedoms are curtailed or withdrawn completely.

An almost identical incident occurred in South Africa in 2010 when a student, Chumani Maxwele, was arrested for allegedly insulting the president as his convoy sped past.

In stark contrast to the Irish incident, where the protesters were the target of almost universal media condemnation, the South African media strongly condemned the state for its abuse of free speech.

An investigation by the Centre for Constitutional Rights found that Maxwele’s rights of human dignity, security of person and freedom of expression and peaceful/unarmed demonstration had been violated.

One media commentator wrote the following:

(A concern is) that when a private citizen is arrested for ‘insulting the president’…the Government and the ANC take one step closer to assuming the comical status of the typical African tin-pot dictatorship.

Citizens of our tin-pot democracy do not enjoy the protection of a Centre for Constitutional Rights. Neither can citizens who participate in democratic, non-violent protests expect much support from a media that is overwhelmingly pro government/establishment.

A media that does not see free speech as a fundamental human right, no matter who it offends, but rather as a conditional right confined within very narrow parameters.

In a follow-up article I will analyse an Irish Times editorial on this issue which reflects a disturbing blindness within Irish media to the frequent abuse by the state of citizens rights.

Copy to:
President Higgins
Government

041607FreeSpeech