Free speech under state attack in Ireland


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political/administrative system is facing a serious challenge from disaffected citizens, such freedoms are curtailed or withdrawn completely.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


Denis O’Brien’s journalists miss the point

Denis O’Brien’s broadcaster Seán Moncrieff conducted a cosy conversation yesterday with Denis O’Brien’s journalist Daniel McConnell (Group political correspondent with ‘Independent’ Newspapers) on the government payment (bribe) to all those who have signed up with Irish Water.

McConnell argued that to dismantle Irish Water at this stage would cost a fortune. Millions would be wasted, redundancies would have to be paid for, the very expensive IT system would have to be scrapped and what would replace the company?

In other words, we are where we are, the damage is done, let’s forget the past and move on.

McConnell’s argument, which was, of course, fully suported by Moncrief, is simplistic and completely misses the point.

The setting up of Irish Water almost certainly involved some very dodgy dealings. The company was set up in almost total secrecy with deals done behind closed doors that involved the handing over of millions in taxpayers money.

In a functional democracy the whole dirty deal would have triggered an immediate police investigation.

McConnell’s attitude can be likened to a police unit coming across the scene of a suspected crime and, instead of doing their job, deciding to ignore the whole thing because an investigation would be too constly.

For decades our corrupt political/administrative system has engaged in massive corruption and criminalty. Nobody is ever made accountable, nobody is ever brought to justice. The evidence for this fact is overwhelming.

Journalists (and politicians) like McConnell, either out of ignorance or in defence of an agenda, repeadedly make the argument that it’s too late to do anything about it now, we should just forget about making anyone accountable and move on.

This attitude guarantees that the corruption and criminalty will occur again and again.

Government making Irish Water too big to fail?

Colette Browne has an excellent piece in yesterday’s Irish Independent in which she outlines and analyses the grotesque amounts of money being pumped (no apology for pun) into Irish Water.

I suspect that part of the reason so much money is being poured into the bottomless pit that is Irish Water is to make its loans and liabilities so big that the Government can claim that its too big to fail and therefore must be saved at any cost (to the taxpayer) – just like the banks.

Here’s a quote referring to Alan Kelly’s ecstatic response to the fact that just 46pc of people are actually paying water charges.

Monty Python’s Black Knight – who insisted his injuries were only a flesh wound even as his opponent hacked off his arms and his legs – Mr Kelly was adamant it was the Government’s plan all along that most people would ignore their water bills.

Sean O’Rourke’s continuing support for the Government

I wrote the other day about the disgraceful bias shown by RTE presenter Sean O’Rourke during a discussion between Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy and Suzanne Lynch, Irish Times European Correspondent in Athens.

It is clear to even the most uninformed observer that O’Rourke supports the Government/establishment side in the ongoing Water Tax war.

O’Rourke doesn’t seem the least bothered about his unprofessional behaviour and, it also seems, RTE management have no problem with his bullyboy tactics when interviewing those who are opposed to his obvious pro-establishment opinions.

He puts great effort into steering discussion in favour of his own political opinion and, when necessary, he uses the tactic of interrupting those opposed to his views in support of those who are of the same mind as his.

His bullyboy tactics against Paul Murphy were again used in a ‘discussion’ between Labour Senator Mary Moran and Cllr. Michael O’Brien of the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

O’Rourke made it very difficult for Cllr. O’Brien to discuss the reason for the protest. Neither was Senator Moran interested in discussing the substantial issue, she simply kept expressing outrage at what she perceived was an attack on democracy and agreeing with Sean O’Rourke as he attacked the protester’s ‘thuggery’.

Here’s the relevant section of the discussion which centred on the throwing of a cone at a Guard.

Cllr. O’Brien: I don’t stand over the throwing of objects whatsoever but, there’s another side to this…

…interrupted by Sean O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: You don’t stand over it. Would you care to put it a little bit more strongly, maybe think about condemning it?

This is bullying. In O’Rourke’s poliltical opinion Cllr O’Brien was not strong enough in his reaction to the alleged incident.

Cllr. O’Brien: I’m opposed to the throwing of objects. The point I was going to make Sean was the Guards drew batons on people and I saw people from the community I represent with injuries inflicted upon them by the Guards.

Later when O’Brien was getting the better of Senator Moran, O’Rourke again interrupted, changing the direction of the discussion.

O’Rourke: What do you say to Alan Shatter the former Justice Minister, a representative of the people of Dublin South saying that he had abusive insults hurled at him, his car was thumped and kicked by some protesters, it was a clear example of thuggery.

Senator Moran: It was, absolutely.

O’Rourke is clealy showing bias here. He begins with a quesiton and ends by expressing his own strong political opinion. Senator Moran was clearly delighted with O’Rourke’s strong support.

O’Rourke: Do you condemn thuggery or do you accept that it was thuggery?

Cllr. O’Brien attempts to make his point but again O’Rourke interrupts.

O’Rourke: Are you saying you do not condemn the violent actions of some people who showed up last evening?

Cllr. O’Brien: Yes, I am opposed to the throwing of objects, spitting…

…interrupted again by O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: Do you condemn them?

Cllr. O’Brien: Yeah, I’m opposed to that.

O’Rourke: There’s a difference between being opposed to something and condemning it?

Cllr. O’Brien: Well, I do condemn the throwing of objects and conduct of that fashion.

As Cllr. O’Brien tries again to discuss the reason for the protest he is, yet again, interrupted by O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: Were you not in a position last night to appeal to people to restrain themselves, to cooperate with the Gardai?

Cllr. O’Brien explained that protesters were asked by organisers not to allow themselves be provoked by Gardai because a violent response would be used by media to discredit water protesters.

And of course, that’s exactly what Sean O’Rourke and RTE were doing. It’s odd that RTE management don’t seem to be aware of the massive damage such bias is doing to the station’s credibility.

Copy to:
Sean O’Rourke/RTE

Irish Water: Hey, where’s me money?

During a discussion on inheritance tax on today’s Liveline a lady caller diverted from the topic to relate the following story regarding her first water bill. Really hilarious stuff.

My water bill came in on the 30th April, I paid it that day. I had to make a phone call yesterday evening (to Irish Water) to make an inquiry for one of my sons and when I put in my details it said – you owe €64.10.

Hold on a minute, I said, how could I owe that? So I had to go through the whole thing again. Then (on advice) I checked my bank account and discovered that my money was taken out.

I’ve been on to four different people in Irish Water and they don’t know where my money is.

Gardai and ‘threatening’ water protesters

A standard strategy of blackening the name of an individual or group is to make connections between that individual or group with the illegal or threatening behaviour of others.

Here’s the vice president of the Garda Representative Association Ciaran O’Neill speaking on RTE (5th report) about the relationship between Gardai and water protesters.

People want to see Guards working in their community but when you have a number who are brought off to monitor a protest to ensure that it’s peaceful it does drain other resources and communities are being deprived of policing because of it.

The message here is clear: Those who engage in peaceful, democratic protests are depriving communities of police protection. The clear suggestion is that such protests should stop.

There seems to be a sinister element that are trying to get themselves involved with the protests. It would appear that there is an element that have very nefarious reasons for being there that are anti-establishment, that are trying to cause trouble and are bringing good people whose intentions are just to protest peacefully and are creating violent situations.

Police officers have an obligation to inform citizens, and particularly those involved in the water protests, of who exactly these sinister elements are. What are their motives, their strategies, how exactly are they manipulating peaceful protesters. Throwing out vague references about ‘sinister elements’ without evidence mirrors the political strategy of mainstream political parties.

We have a job to do…but we have people, particularly in respect to the water protests, who are trying to identify members of An Garda Siochana. We’ve had rewards offered to identify where they live and to identify their families and that shouldn’t be happening, that’s not peaceful, that’s not protesting in a proper way, that’s threatening, intimidating.

Threatening a police officer is, to my knowledge, a crime. The Gardai should investigate and bring charges if sufficient evidence is found but it is disturbing to witness a police officer lump in peaceful protesters with a tiny minority who may be breaking the law.

It is reasonable to claim, I believe, that the water protests in Ireland involving hundreds of thousands of citizens are probably the most peaceful, most law abiding protests in recent world history.

Which raises the question – Why is the establishment so determined to blacken the reputation of those involved in such democratic protests?

Rabbitte and cronies begin to stampede?

Oh dear, is the panic in government turning into a stampede?

I mean, c’mon deputy Rabbitte – The RTE board has decided to strangle Irish Water at birth?

A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked into an organized system.

Oh wait; that’s a perfection description of Rabbitte and his fellow cronies.