Archive for the ‘Law enforcement’ Category

The Day éirígí Saved Dublin

May 18, 2011

It won’t have escaped your attention that certain historic events are afoot in Dublin this week. How do we know they’re historic? Partly because every news bulletin hammers home the historic nature of the Queen’s historic footsteps through historic Dublin’s historic streets, in the historic course of an historic visit which will echo, historically, in the historic history books of historical history.

Yesterday, however, certain flies infiltrated the historic ointment. Like all the worst flies, they were, if the outraged histrionics of Middle Ireland were to be believed, dirty, disease-ridden and disgustingly common. Let me clarify a few things before I proceed. There are few sights which distress me more than Celtic jerseys and ranks of tricolours, especially when they’re combined. I will own to being fairly fanatically non- and anti-nationalist (in the broadest, rather than specifically Irish, sense.)

I don’t like eirígi. I think republican socialism is an oxymoron, an ideological ouroboros wherein the head devours the tail; that Connollyite national chauvinism of the éirígí/IRSP/CPI variety is a dead-end and intrinsically anti-socialist. I think attempting to shoe-horn the present political status of Northern Ireland into a classical imperialist paradigm is bargain-basement “national liberation” mumbo-jumbo of the most incoherent kind. I see no compelling argument for the inherent justice of this island’s territorial unification which doesn’t ultimately redound unto the purity or impurity of blood.

On that basis, I wasn’t particularly exercised by the impending state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland. I knew the obsequious, hand-chafing servility of our political establishment (now entirely composed of self-seekers and opportunists; a Fianna Fáil government might, strange as it sounds, have handled the occasion with marginally more dignity) would be fairly nauseating to behold, but also fairly easy to ignore. I knew the Queen was unlikely to deliver a thundering denunciation of our dole-paying, service-providing deviancy and demand that we cut further and faster, which placed her several rungs above most of our distinguished international visitors.

Demonstrating against her visit seemed, therefore, a needless and potentially misguiding diversion for the left to engage in. Yes, it’s possible to raise questions about the inherent absurdity of monarchy, and the Queen’s role as titular commander-in-chief of the British armed forces’ murderous operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and, not so long ago, Northern Ireland. But to be honest, it’s a wee bit of a stretch (particularly with the actual executive power behind those ongoing outrages shortly to arrive in person), and Bríd Smith didn’t make a great fist of it on Vincent Browne’s show last night.

There is something to be said for the notion that the Queen’s visit represents a full stop at the end of a traumatic chapter of enmity between the peoples of Britain and Ireland; having never been aware of any such generalised enmity, I don’t see it, personally, but nor do I demean it. Equally, it’s easy to see how the gilded spectacle of a royal visit fits into the timely and convenient infantilization of Irish culture, almost as a more stately postscript to last week’s Jedwardmania.

Two things changed my mind, not on the substantive issues, but on the significance of the event. One was the ring of steel off-handedly thrown around Dublin for the duration of both state visits, and the extraordinarily casual breaches of what liberals call (when they don’t belong to other people) civil liberties, far exceeding the disruption occasioned by any industrial action in recent years, albeit with a markedly different response.

The other was the gathering realisation that the Queen’s visit was being used by our establishment to, as Hugh Green so deftly put it, “draw a line under Ireland’s revolutionary history.” Now that Ireland has graciously extended the fair hand of reconciliation to Her Majesty, we could finally see that tumultuous process of dangerous, ideologically-tinged extrication from the vampiric clutches of empire for the jejune, but above all outmoded, preoccupation it is; and certainly as nothing which holds any relevance today.

Equally, if not more, notable was the shock and awe campaign which constituted the unprecedented Garda presence on the streets of the capital. A stage-managed, bouquet-strewn popular euphoria might have better served the narrative, but there was a more important principle at stake. This was power communing with power, to the very definite and very conspicuous exclusion of the people. If you thought these were your streets, upon which to exult or excoriate as you saw fit, then, to coin a phrase, you could jolly well grow up and move on. It was an opportunity (denied the government by the low-key nature of the IMF’s presence) to reassert the violent and exclusionary power of the state, and the impotence of the people, in a way which hadn’t presented itself since the student protests last winter.

The most visible challenge to this enforced consensus came from éirígí. Well, that’s not strictly true. In fact, most of the violence (such as it was) seemed to emanate from unaligned or differently-aligned republican groups, but éirígí, being tainted with socialism, was a better fit for the low-life, simian, working-class refusnik caricature for which Middle Ireland lusted so.

Before I go on, let me add a few more disclaimers. I’m not so desperate for a foretaste of revolution that it quickens my blood to see the cops get a decent chasing, and I don’t think there’s anything heroic or particularly smart about small groups of young people without popular support throwing things at the police (in fact, a revolution could be quite neatly defined as the point at which it becomes unnecessary to throw things at the police.)

There is no justification, moral or tactical, in present-day Ireland for acts of aggressive violence against the state security forces. Yesterday’s violence, however, while unnecessary and unfortunate, was, much like the police presence itself, largely symbolic. The only people endangered by it were the alleged perpetrators.

That said, it’s questionable whether any country in which the state’s repressive apparatus can mobilise officers in their tens of thousands, shut down the capital’s main thoroughfare, harass citizens going about their daily business, and NOT have things thrown at them has any right to call itself a healthy democracy. If you think the oh-so-delicate blossom of liberty is more threatened by a handful of working class youths lobbing missiles than by swarms of riot police excluding the citizenry from its own streets on prior presumption of guilt, then you weren’t paying much attention for most of the 20th century.

The purpose of this massive police operation is to reinforce the ideological lock-down which has existed in Ireland for (conservatively) the past three years. It is about the pre-emption of politics and the stifling of dissenting voices. Now is not the time for questioning, legitimately or otherwise, the role of the British monarch or the statements such visits make about the relationship of our ruling class to their international counterparts. Now is not the time for protesting about student fees, Corrib gas or public sector pay-cuts. We are in a state of emergency.

Those small bands of protesters, by their mere presence in the face of unprecedented intimidation in service of hegemony, refused to relinquish their own democratic rights and prevented the diminution of everyone else’s from going unchallenged. For that reason, I would quite happily bestow upon them an appellation which means nothing to me but may have some significance to them; patriots.

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The Elephant in the Atlantic

April 6, 2011

It’s a toss-up as to whether the transcript or the audio recording of the Belmullet Garda Station incident is the more ghastly. Ghastlier still, however, has been the reaction elicited from the media and certain elements of the public at large.

Let us be clear about the content of the recording. It involves a group of Gardaí Síochána broaching, elucidating upon and deriving considerable amusement from the prospect of sexually violating a female in their custody for corrective purposes, in a remote part of the country where the rights nominally accorded citizens are already in effective abeyance.

If that strikes you as a keeper for the Boys Will Be Boys album, then all I can say is that you’ve got the police force you deserve. Note also the vulgar disparagement of the woman in question, and the pejorative reference to her possibly foreign provenance, both frequently identified factors in the psychology and methodology of rape.

If you walked into a staff-room and overheard a group of teachers discussing the notion of physically abusing your son or daughter to general merriment, exactly how inclined would you be to airily disregard it as a spot of confraternal hijinks?

The response of much of our national media to this development has been an outright scandal. This is how RTÉ are headlining their take on the story, the facts of which are fairly unambiguous:

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…which leads one to ponder what further circomlocutory evasions they might have employed throughout the ages…

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RTÉ’s approach, of course, suggests that the fetid morals of Belmullet Garda Station are consistent throughout our ruling class, but it also suggests something equally troubling.

For if the story is to be scrutinised in any detail, the question of why these women were in Mayo, why they were arrested, how the conduct of the Gardaí tallies with a long-established pattern of behaviour in this operation, and at whose behest this operation functions, would be impossible to avoid. And that, more than all other manifestations of political dissidence in contemporary Ireland, is a forbidden topic. Far better to obfuscate, evade and dissemble, even if it means buttressing attitudes which devastate hundreds of Irish lives annually.

The Cold Light of Death

September 24, 2010

Last night, in the nation which gave humanity the power of flight and scattered the pall of loneliness from the night sky with a single act of cosmic audacity, a woman was led along a silent corridor, bodily restrained, and slowly, publicly deprived of her life by agents of state justice.

At 41 years of age, Teresa Lewis might reasonably, in the normal course of events, have expected to live out her final years deep into the 2050s. Had the emotional trauma engendered by her imminent and inescapable death induced a heart attack or cerebral haemorrhage, the same doctor who stood ready (behind a cloak of anonymity and under pain of blacklisting) to supervise her execution would doubtless have leapt to her aid. Such is the grotesque, bathetic absurdity of death at the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.

Teresa Lewis was accorded a more peaceful demise than that inflicted upon Delara Darabi (a juvenile at the time of her conviction), hanged by the Iranian government in 2009. Lewis’s alleged crimes – planning and facilitating the murder of her husband and stepson for financial gain – were certainly of a nature more viscerally repugnant than those of Du Yimin, executed in China for operating a massive Ponzi scheme (which, nonetheless, cost her “investors” less than a quarter of a percent of the sum Sean Fitzpatrick’s financial buccaneering will ultimately gouge from the pockets of the Irish taxpayer.)

In executing Lewis, the state of Virginia narrowly avoided the intolerable stigma of surviving an entire century without judicially squeezing the life from a captive woman. Hers was the 39th formal execution in the United States this year, and probably the most controversial. The showbiz killing of double murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner, shot through the heart in Utah with four .30 calibre rounds at his own request, briefly excited the deadened palate of the US networks at the height of summer.

Similarly piquant retro charm attended the death of homicidal child rapist Paul Powell, bombarded with 1,800 volts of electricity until sparks and smoke danced about his convulsing body, a spectacle described by Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert as “vivid, meaningful and impressive” compared to the “anticlimax” of lethal injection.

Teresa Lewis’s USP was, of course, her gender. Exposure to the death penalty is one of the few arenas of victimisation which leaves American women largely untouched; otherwise, the usual suspects are present, correct and waiting to die. Blacks, Latinos and poor whites comprise almost the entire population of Death Row (in fact, there’s probably no “almost” about it.)

Since the reintroduction of capital punishment in 1976, 246 black prisoners have been executed for murdering white victims; executions resulting from white-on-black murders total just 15. Either African-Americans are genetically predisposed to murderous violence, or there’s an underlying prejudice at play within law enforcement agencies, jury selection and judicial sentencing procedures. If it takes you longer than five seconds to figure that one out, don’t let me detain you from your appointment with Fox News.

Assuming her guilt was justly apportioned, Lewis’s complicity in a monstrous crime animated by the basest, grubbiest motive of all was reprehensible, originating from the farthest bank of a moral Rubicon no feeling person could ever bear to cross. It is impossible, however, to escape the conclusion that she went to her death for no other reason than that she was a woman.

Her accomplices (in actuality, those who performed the deed) were sentenced to life imprisonment, while Lewis alone, the alleged “mastermind” with an I.Q. of 70, received the death penalty. The gleeful prurience of the Irish media’s interventions in the Nevin, Collins and Mulhall cases may serve as an instructive comparison to the atmosphere which surrounded Lewis’s trial, conviction and execution.

Beyond its exotic, shark-bait trimmings, one is inclined to question whether last night’s execution was more shocking, more deplorable for the fact that its victim was a woman. Objectively, one has to say no; instinctively, yes. I grew up in a family and community steeped in left republicanism, an ideology/deviation for which I hold no brief. Long after I’d discarded all those values which diverged from my own, however, two cast-iron, non-negotiable admonitions which were drummed into me repeatedly remained; never cross a picket-line, never strike a woman.

To digress briefly, I sometimes think that those two principles were related, that the latter isn’t attributable merely to the superficial bourgeois confection of chivalry. What I took from the steadfastness of that prohibition was an implicit, perhaps even subconscious acknowledgement that, in those times and those conditions, a man’s relationship to a woman would always tend towards the exploitative, and that physical violence would further, and inexcusably, solidify that tendency.

Underlying socio-economic factors, societal prejudices and unsound legal processes aside, it is probable that a substantial majority of those currently awaiting execution in the USA are guilty of horrendous crimes which render them unfit to function in society. And this, of course, is irrelevant.

I am a socialist not because I believe in the inherent efficiency of a planned economy (although I do), but because it is the only form of government, the only ordering of the world, which can uphold the humanity of the individual, of the community and of society, as sacrosanct and inviolable.

Capital punishment, where it is practised, functions as a brute instrument of class repression, prejudice, and chauvinism. Even if it didn’t, it would still be immoral. To hold a human life wholly within one’s power, to extinguish in cold blood the life of one who can do you no conceivable harm, is almost the acme of cruelty, the ideal form of exploitation.

The extirpation of this calculated evil is a cause for which socialists, if they are truly committed to humanitarianism, should strive alongside all those willing to lend their voices. The slogan is “Socialism or Barbarism” – they cannot co-exist.

A las Boyd-Barricadas!

May 12, 2010

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Notice anything missing from that already-famous image (the blurriness of which is down to the SWP, not me)? Yep, the logo of the KKE has been cropped out from the bottom right-hand corner. The irony of a Trotskyist organisation applying the Stalinist airbrush to a Stalinist image just amused me.

Cheap shots aside, I congratulate the SWP on being the first left group to instigate anything approaching an act of mass resistance in the current crisis. There’s been a positive orgy of hand-wringing from both left and right towards the cut-price sans-cullotes who stormed The Duke of Leinster’s Goodtime Emporium. Personally, I say good on ’em. There was obviously no violent or malicious intent involved and it made the protest harder to ignore. The folks who ended up on the wrong end of the truncheons last night were genuinely “taking the pain” in the national interest.

UUP: “Hands off southern trade unions!”

March 15, 2010

This is more Splintered Sunrise’s province than mine (pun diplomatically unintended), but the Republic’s increasingly assailed trade unions found an unlikely champion this weekend, in the form of UUP councillor (and twice Lord Mayor of Belfast) Jim Rodgers.

Rodgers, in his capacity as a director of Glentoran F.C., rightfully took exception to Garda heavy-handedness at Saturday’s Setanta Sports Cup fixture between his side and Bohemians at Dalymount Park.

Our august Guardians of the Peace reportedly took exception to attempts on the part of someone in the sizeable travelling support to erect a Northern Ireland flag in the Des Kelly stand. By “erect”, they presumably mean “drape over the hoardings”, although the sight of a boozed-up Nordie casual shinning up the flagpole at the end of the Jodi stand would have been one for the scrapbook.

Quoth Cllr. Rodgers:

“I would have to point the finger at the policing, which left a lot to be desired,” he said.

“We’ve seen it before with Linfield fans. Instead of operating a sensible policing policy, they go at it like a bull in a china shop, it doesn’t help community relations.

“The Garda Siochana need specialist training in how to handle crowds. We see it with trade union demonstrations down south, they seem to overreact.”

Give the chap a fucking cigar, he’s spot-on on every score. In addition to which, he deftly avoided mentioning the Love Ulster débâcle. Any chance of shipping him off to the front line in the War on Plunder out west?

Speaking of overreactions, the story as viewed through the psychedelic prism of the Evening Herald is barely recognisable.

The Herald witnessed first hand how gangs aligned to the East Belfast club spread an air of menace and hate in and around the Phibsboro area.

As tens of thousands of rugby fans spilled out of nearby Croke Park following Ireland’s fantastic win against Wales, hordes of Northern soccer fans were intent on creating havoc less than a mile away.

This newspaper also saw how gardai tried to defuse the situation by operating a friendly attitude with aggressive Glentoran supporters.

Officials from the Belfast club said they were unhappy at the use of the dogs and the speed with which the Public Order Unit was brought in. Five men, all Glentoran fans and all in their 30s and 40s, were charged for public order offences and appeared in court this morning after being released on bail.

Three of the men were arrested shortly after the kick off in the game with the other two Glentoran fans being arrested before the game. It is believed that the skirmishes within the ground started when Glentoran supporters were prevented from erecting a Northern Ireland flag, an act seen by many as one of open provocation.

Leaving aside all Baudrillardian cogitations on whether it’s possible to see an act in a particular light if the act did not take place, the indignation evinced at the fact that these working-class thugs were practically breathing the same air as the rugger buggers exiting Croke Park is telling. I mean, little Tiernán could have heard a Northside accent or positively anything.

Anyway, four Glensmen got their collars felt and were up before Judge Cormac Dunne this afternoon. Everyone got the Probation Act and went home, which can’t but cast doubt on the submitted statement that a defendant ‘became “abusive and extremely violent to gardaí, staff and security working at the venue.”’ If he’d been “extremely violent” to anyone, least of all a Guard, he wouldn’t be going home with a smack on the wrist and a note for mother.

Actually, the only flag on display which offended me was that ridiculous little tricolour which Bohs have been sporting on the back of their collars for the past few years. Not only is it gratuitously jingoistic, but it clashes horrendously with their beautiful red and black stripes.

PS: This post was going to be a delayed reaction to the Blueshirt Blueprint, but I see WorldByStorm is all over it on CLR. It’s an interesting gambit, but why does it remind me of this?