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system is facing a serious challenge from disaffected citizens, such freedoms are curtailed or withdrawn completely.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


Minister Hogan: What's a principle?

Pat Kenny (Thursday)asked Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, if he got any stick from his party colleagues for his criticisms of Martin McGuinness in the recent presidential election.

No, all I was doing was ensuring that the people of Ireland when they were going to vote understood the background to all the individual candidates.

I targeted Martin McGuinness and I certainly feel that people should know what his past was and ask him to explain it.

Hogan’s response reminds me of the arrogant attitude of the Catholic Church before it lost power – we know what’s best for you ignorant peasants.

It’s this insulting arrogance that lost Hogan’s party the presidential election, the bye election and the referendum on inquiries.

The attack by Hogan and other ignorant Fine Gael politicians on McGuinness had nothing to do with what’s good for the people of Ireland.

It had everything to do with hypocrisy and snobbery – McGuinness may be good enough for the people of Northern Ireland but he’s not good enough for the Republic’s ruling elite.

If the people of Ireland had elected McGuinness we would have witnessed Hogan’s hypocrisy in all its glory.

He would have had to resign on principle or keep his job and learn to live with a ‘terrorist’ in the Áras.

Given the choice Minister Hogan would, I’m sure, have replied.

Principle, what’s a principle?

John Waters' drivel

If any other columnist wrote the rubbish John Waters writes in today’s Irish Times I would immediately assume he was having us on, that he was engaging in extreme satire.

But Waters is (disturbingly) deadly serious when he tells us that we voted for Michael D because, after 21 years of ‘mothering’ by Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, we all longed for a father figure.

He suggests that the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing crisis has us all glancing around anxiously for dad instead of clinging to nurse.

I mean, who passes this drivel for publication?

Favours and the law

There was a good example of the Irish attitude to law during the presidential campaign. A Dana supporter had parked on a space for the disabled and was challenged by a journalist.

I didn’t actually park there because the engine has to be turned off before you’re parked, I was only stopped.

But you got out and left it there?

No, my friend was taking it to the parking place but I wasn’t parked because the engine was running, it was only stopped.

I’ve raised over a hundred thousand for the IWA and I don’t think they’d mind me parking or stopping on their space for ten seconds.

The logic is – I’ve done favours for this organisation therefore I’m entitled to break the law without suffering consequences.

Gallagher: Clinically incapable of telling the truth

Journalist, barrister and Fianna Fail supporter Noel Whelan talking about his good friend Sean Gallagher on the Marian Finucane Show last Sunday.

He cannot be caught unless something catastrophic happens to his campaign in the remaining four or five days.

Gallagher’s problem is simple.

He, in common with all Irish politicians, is clinically incapable of telling the truth.

Gay Mitchell – Who?

Channel 4 News did an in depth report on the presidential election covering all the candidates with the exception of Mary Davis and Gay Mitchell.

Was it just sloppy research on the part of Channel 4 that they missed Gay Mitchell who is, in effect, a government candidate or was it that they just didn’t notice him – I think the latter.

Given his right wing and deeply conservative/Catholic outlook the Fine Gael candidate was never going to get my number one vote but after reading a ‘sermon’ by Catholic militant, David Quinn, Mitchell is now off my list altogether.

McGuinness: Not good enough for the morons who destroyed the country

The entry of Martin McGuinness into the presidential election has brought to the surface a unique and particularly virulent form of Irish hypocrisy.

In it’s simplest form this hypocrisy can be expressed in a sentence – McGuinness is good enough for the people of Northern Ireland but ‘his type’ does not measure up to the high standards of political leadership in the Republic.

This view is, of course, pure and utter bullshit propagated by a ruling elite who labour under the delusion that Ireland is a functional democracy when in reality it is nothing more than a banana republic, a failed state that has more in common with a badly run mafia than a modern democratic state.

McGuinness is accepted by the people of Northern Ireland, by the British Government and the British people, by all the peoples and governments of the European Union, by the United Nations, by the United States, indeed by the entire world as a bona fide, hard working and genuine politician who has made a major contribution in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

Only the hypocritical, incompetent morons who destroyed our country are of the view that McGuinness is not a fit person to hold high office.

In order to stop McGuinness at all cost, this campaign is going to have an additional ingredient – a state/government strategy to smear McGuinness at every opportunity.

This strategy will probably include government leaks, the handing over of files to ‘friendly’ journalists and heightened Garda activity against republican supporters.

Dana and Senator Norris

As an atheist my views on religion are a million miles away from those of Dana Rosemary Scallon but despite that I admire her as a person and believe she would make a good president.

I admire her because she doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is – a conservative Catholic. When defending her church/beliefs she doesn’t come across as a hypocrite or as a loony religious fanatic.

David Norris, on the other hand, has gone down in my estimation in recent years principally because of his hypocritical defence of that corrupt quango, Seanad Eireann.

He has shown himself to be more interested in preserving the rotten system that has destroyed our country than supporting those who want to destroy that system and build a new republic.

Joe Duffy loses the head

In fairness, Joe Duffy did his very best to hide his contempt for Martin McGuinness on Liveline today but, in the end, he lost the head.

Joe attempted for a short time to remain balanced but it soon became obvious that callers who supported McGuinness were, let’s be kind here, ‘robustly’ challenged by Joe while those opposed to the former IRA man were allowed to make their point without serious interruption.

Joe: If Martin McGuinness committed crimes he should be in prison.

Caller: The Good Friday Agreement dealt with all of that. The UVF prisoners were all let out.

Joe: (Shouting down the caller).

Hang on, Larry Murphy of the Shankill Butchers is not standing for president of Ireland…how would you react if Larry Murphy was to put himself forward and get the support of twenty of our parliamentarians, tell me how you would react.

The caller attempted to respond but Joe became hysterical.

Joe: You’d vomit.

Caller tries again to make a point.

Joe: You’d vomit.

Caller: No Joe, I wouldn’t.

Joe: You would.

I think we can safely say that Martin McGuinness’ entry into the fray has finally launched the election campaign; I think it’s going to be very interesting.