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Theresa May’s brand of inequality | Blog | Class: Centre for Labour and Social Studies

Theresa May’s brand of inequality | Blog | Class: Centre for Labour and Social Studies

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

By Anthony Sheridan David Aminu committed a crime by defrauding the Department of Social Welfare of €136,000 in welfare payments. The crime came to light in 2015 when Mr. Aminu wrote to the Dept. admitting his crime and offered to repay the stolen funds. An immediate Garda investigation was launched as a result of the confession. Mr. Aminu was charged, found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. Mr. Aminu’s defence pleaded that he had confessed, was repaying the stolen funds and was unlikely to reoffend. It was also pointed out to the judge that if Mr. Aminu were sent to jail he would face automatic deportation on his release with serious consequences for his wife and family. None of this cut any mustard with the judge. Accepting that Aminu was a good man, that there would be long-term consequences for him and his family if a jail term was imposed and that the only aggravating factor was the actual crime the judge nevertheless took a stern and very narrow view. Aminu must suffer a term of imprisonment to punish him and deter others. Although this is an extremely harsh judgement it is, nevertheless, the law and in all functional democracies the law must be upheld and equally applied. Unfortunately, Ireland is not a functional democracy and, as a consequence, justice like that meted out to Mr. Aminu is strictly reserved for ordinary citizens. Those with power and influence are seldom subject to the law and can do pretty much as they please. Here are just some recent examples of how those with power and influence get away with serious criminality. On the same day that Mr. Aminu’s case was reported the Central Bank revealed that banks were admitting to thousands of additional cases of criminally defrauding those on tracker mortgages. The number of victims of this criminality has now reached over 30,000. People have lost their homes, their savings and some, it is thought, their lives. The Central Bank knew what was going on and did nothing; it’s still, effectively, protecting the criminal bankers. There have been no arrests, no charges, no justice. Senior civil servants are also protected by the state when they commit crimes, even when they openly admit guilt. Senior staff at the Office of Corporate Enforcement (the grandiose title always makes me laugh) responsible for the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial perverted the course of justice by deliberately destroying evidence and coaching witnesses. In functional democracies such crimes are taken very seriously. In Ireland there were no charges, no trial, the guilty were protected by the state. For 20 years now there has been an avalanche of criminality spewing from the ranks of our police force, we have yet to see a police officer on trial. Just recently, the most senior police officer in the state decided that no charges would be brought against any member of his force who were found to have falsified up to a million breath tests. The police chief said he was not prepared to spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money on the scandal, that the money would be better spent on ‘protecting the community’ – from ordinary criminals like Mr. Aminu presumably. Predictably, there was no objection to this banana republic abuse of law enforcement from politicians or, indeed, judges. And then, of course, there’s the criminal politicians who, over the decades, have been defrauding the state through false expenses claims and robbing citizens money by stealing food and drink in the Dail bar and restaurant. Irish citizens won’t even be allowed to pass election judgement on these criminal politicians because, incredibly, data laws protect their identities. Just think about that, we live in a country where public representatives can openly rob citizen’s money and property with complete impunity and we’re not even allowed to know their names never mind throw them in jail. For so long as our country is misgoverned and exploited by a corrupt ruling elite we will rarely witness a judge say that a banker, police officer, government official or politician should be jailed I suspect that when Mr. Aminu sat down to write his letter of confession he was not aware that in Ireland there is no law for the rich and powerful and strict enforcement for ordinary decent citizens. I also suspect that if he knew the truth he would have burned that letter. Copy to: Senator Craughwell (Independent) I’m copying this article to Senator Craughwell in the hope it might help to inform him of the reality of corruption in Ireland. From a number of twitter conversations it is clear that the senator has little idea of how the disease of corruption is destroying the lives of countless thousands of Irish citizens.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Abuse victim’s case under way at European Court

Abuse victim’s case under way at European Court: The State must accept responsibility for children who were sexually abused in schools managed and run by the Catholic Church, the European Court of Human Rights was told.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Family claims mother may have died due to asbestos used in flat complex

Family claims mother may have died due to asbestos used in flat complex: The family of a woman who died from a form of cancer linked to asbestos say she may have been exposed to the material during the construction of a Dublin flat complex.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Dublin City Council chief called to resign after letter to US developers released

Dublin City Council chief called to resign after letter to US developers released: Dublin’s controversial City Council chief Owen Keegan has been called on to resign after he told US developers to ignore a vote against the Poolbeg incinerator.

Dublin City Council chief called to resign after letter to US developers released

Dublin City Council chief called to resign after letter to US developers released: Dublin’s controversial City Council chief Owen Keegan has been called on to resign after he told US developers to ignore a vote against the Poolbeg incinerator.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

WHAT IF?: "You must remember that Susan Denem now supreme co...

WHAT IF?: "You must remember that Susan Denem now supreme co...: "You must remember that Susan Denem now supreme court judge once sat on the garda complaints board”A YOUNG PROFOUNDLY DEAF MAN WAS BEAT...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ireland’s property crash could have been avoided

Ireland’s property crash could have been avoided: Irish American billioniare Chuck Feeney’s effort to establish the Centre for Public Inquiry to examine corporate...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sunday, July 2, 2017

This is Palestine

This is Palestine: Text transcript of the video 'This is Palestine' Multi-award winning producer and director John McColgan recently travelled to the West Bank and Gaza with Trócaire to document the lives of people living a daily reality of military occupation and economic blockade. This Is Palestine documents McColgan's journey and features powerful interviews with the people he met along the way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Prisoners’ Rights Organisation: a case study in grassroots organising, ‘history from below’ & police accountability Date: Thu, 2013-07-04 16:04 The Prisoners’ Rights Organisation (PRO) was founded in the early 1970s. Before its dissolution in the late eighties it was in many ways a unique phenomenon - a small but highly energetic grassroots organisation that consistently called public attention to cases of police brutality and misconduct through varied forms of street protest and media work. This article tells the story of the formation and development of the organisation and the ‘hidden history’ of the PRO’s attempt to make police accountable. The origins of the PRO As the name suggests the PRO was not initially concerned with the gardaí but with prison conditions. In the early 1970s the prison system reached crisis point as more and more people were incarcerated in filthy, badly planned Victorian prisons. As a result Irish jails were convulsed by waves of protest and repression and the PRO emerged from this cycle of resistance. Specifically the organisation’s roots lie in a ‘Prisoners’ Union’ set up in Portlaoise in 1971 following a serious assault on an inmate by a warder. When members of the Portlaoise union were moved on to the Curragh and Mountjoy, prisoners’ unions were established there. Through the unions the prisoners began to document the reality of incarceration and to formulate clear demands for a more humane prison system (34). The demands were publicised outside the prisons by a hastily formed Committee for Prison Reform. In 1972 a number of the prisoners who had been involved in the unions were released and began to work with some of the members of the Committee for Prison Reform which led in 1973 to the formation of the PRO. The organisation was launched publicly in July 1973 at a packed meeting of ex-prisoners and human rights activists. The group soon proved to be extremely active and innovative. In the following months they organised a number of high profile meetings in Dublin at which radical clergymen, Irish and international political activist and trade unionists (35) called on the government to reform the prison system. At the same time they were routinely organising pickets and protests outside prisons and the Department of Justice. Within a couple of years of their inception, the PRO was involved in an enormous number of intiatives and projects. This activity took three forms - practical support and solidarity for prisoners, political agitation and protest, and media and research work. The practical support for prisoners involved a wide range of services and even included running a bus for families visiting inmates, but most frequently involved making legal representations and complaints on behalf of prisoners. The political and media work drew directly on the information gathered while offering practical solidarity to prisoners and was then disseminated both in their own publications and through the mainstream media. However, despite the impressive level of energy shown by the PRO throughout its history, the core group of activists was very small - between 10 and 15 people. Initially it was mainly made up of ex-prisoners and was based solely in the north inner city of Dublin. Over the years the composition of the organising committee of the PRO changed somewhat and despite positioning itself as an explicitly ‘non –political’ organisation it did attract a number of political activists from both inside and outside the community into its ranks, most notably the feminist and socialist Máirín de Burca whose interest in prison reform stemmed from her own experience as an inmate and Joe Costello who was a spokesman for the organisation for several years and later became a Labour TD for the north inner city. However, political activists were never a majority within the organising committee or the group as a whole. Although the core activist group remained small, the PRO did over time spread beyond the north inner city in Dublin and eventually set up another branch in Cork and developed a fairly large active support base of people who would turn up at protests. By the late seventies the PRO had also developed a network of influential contacts in the media and in the legal profession. In 1979 they had the contacts and wherewithal to organise a high profile three-day public commission on the penal system chaired by Seán McBride with extensive submissions from prisoners, academics and legal experts. Remarkably, it was the first review of penal conditions in the history of the state. The event was reported by RTE and the Irish Times and later resulted in the publication of a book (36). According to a campaigner active in the PRO throughout the eighties “letting the public know” by documenting and publicising the reality of everyday life in the prison system was seen internally as one of the central functions of the organisation. Particular attention was given to the personal experience of prisoners and in this respect the PRO can be regarded as part of a serious and sustained attempt to write the history of the criminal justice system in from ‘below’. A key part of this was the regular publication and distribution of the Jail Journal which came out every couple of months. The journal was mainly written by prisoners or ex-prisoners, and the bulk of the publication was concerned with the experience of imprisonment through personal testimonies, poems, reports and analyses. Although in the latter half of the life of the organisation the tone of the journal became a little more formal, it always retained a sense of immediacy and a connection with everyday life. The publication built up a regular circulation in the low thousands by members selling it in pubs and at demonstrations. The PRO tirelessly tried to bring the issues raised in the Jail Journal to the attention of journalists and a number of the stories first carried in the journal later featured in the national media (37). The main publication was the Jail Journal, but the PRO also published a range of other material including a book on how to use prison rules to make legal cases about prison conditions. The organisation also took upon itself to do more ‘academic’ research. It completed socio-economic surveys of young and adult offenders and drew up reports on individual institutions (38). This grassroots research on crime and punishment was completely unprecedented in an Irish context and demonstrated in a systematic way, for those who may have doubted it, that there was a clear link between poverty and imprisonment. Given the emphasis the PRO gave to creating space for prisoners ‘to tell it like it is’ the organisation inevitably found itself getting to grips with and articulating with a whole swathe of problems which had a bearing on prisoners’ lives but which were not directly connected with gaols. So along with prison conditions the Jail Journal often carried articles about social inequality, mental health and the anomalies and idiocies of the court system. In this way the remit of the organisation widened somewhat. As a consequence in the 1980s the PRO even found itself involved in the struggle against the criminalisation of street traders in Dublin’s inner city and it even became one of the first groups to do advocacy work and popular education on the issue of HIV/Aids. The PRO and Garda brutality It is unsurprising then that from very early on in its history the organisation found itself documenting cases of Garda brutality. This would come to the attention of the PRO either through personal contacts or from people who would arrive at the regular committee meetings and give an account of their experience at the hands the police. Advice would then be offered on how to proceed against the police. The PRO would then double check the story and great care was taken to be scrupulously accurate and avoid any exaggeration. If they thought the story was credible they would contact the media and hold a picket at the station where the incident occurred. The stories were written up in the Jail Journal and followed up in various ways either through further protests or through legal means. Significantly the PRO would offer support to the victim right through any legal or complaints process. Eventually policing became one of the major concerns of the PRO and every edition of the Jail Journal prominently included a list of rights when arrested and occasionally carried advice on how to best to deal with the police. In fact one of the highpoints of the PRO’s activity and certainly some of the most visible and angry protests that the PRO was involved in concerned a high profile case of police violence. Eamonn Byrne a 22 year old from the north inner city was shot during a foiled armed robbery in November 1982 on the North Wall. On the morning in question Byrne and two other went to steal the cash from the purser’s office on a B & I ferry docked in Dublin port but when it became clear that the gardaí had foreknowledge of the robbery Byrne and the others decided to abandon their plans. They attempted to flee but failed and Eamonn Byrne was shot while unarmed and on the ground. The gardaí said the shot was discharged accidentally, but it widely believed that his death was suspicious and that the gardaí had set out that morning to settle a score with Byrne . Some of the suspicion and anger created by the death of Eamonn Byrne stemmed from the fact that he was very well known and popular young man in the north inner city who was viewed by many as a Robin Hood sort of character. More importantly though, it was common knowledge that in the months preceding the botched robbery Byrne had approached several organisations including the PRO and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and made statements that he worried about his safety and that the gardaí had it in for him. In the wake of these events the PRO regularly mobilised hundreds for numerous well attended pickets and demonstrations. Sympathetic articles about Byrne appeared in the mainstream media and although the gardaí were exonerated the PRO had a key role in articulating a community’s concerns and creating media and legal pressure for greater police accountability. Assessing the impact of the PRO on Garda brutality Byrne’s case is in someways representative of the strengths and limitations of the PRO work in general. Looking back over the organisation’s history it is clear that because the PRO was embedded in the community, had a stable organisational structure, enjoyed a network of legal, media and political contacts and above all was willing to provide a public forum for stories of misconduct and brutality it was a uniquely well placed to make the invisible abuse of police power a visible phenomenon (39). Eventually through an accumulation of individual stories the PRO was able to build up a picture of what was happening in custody in a way that had not been done before for ‘non-political’ everyday policing. Specific gardaí, specific stations and particular patterns in behaviour emerged as particularly important through these stories and the PRO was able to link them across time. In some ways the PRO helped construct a collective memory of what was happening in particular stations and see structural patterns which before could be written as ‘anomalies’ or the actions of ‘rogue’ gardaí. Following this up over an extended period of time demonstrated that violent macho cultures flourished in certain stations (40), most often in or at the edge of working class areas, and must have therefore either been encouraged or at least given tacit approval by senior officers. The PRO dissolved in the mid-eighties. According to one of the members of the PRO active at this time this was primarily because drug abuse changed the social dynamics within the communities that PRO was rooted in and led to some of their erstwhile supporters falling away. In retrospect it is difficult to judge how effective the PRO’s work was in making the gardaí more accountable. The PRO never reached, and for various reasons probably could never have reached, the sort of size where their work would have a clearly discernible direct effect on policing (41). However, activity such as regular pickets outside a given police station, the naming of gardaí guilty of brutality in print and the creation of visible networks of solidarity, however hard to measure, is very likely to have had numerous hidden positive effects . What is easier to establish is that that the PRO alongside left wing activists, Republicans and to a lesser extent international NGOs such as Amnesty helped to change, to some extent, the public discourse about policing between the 1970s and 1980s. More importantly still what the PRO demonstrates is that the work of a small committed group of activists, however poorly resourced and however enormous the task they face, can create a new cultural and political space where silenced stories can be aired, elaborated and thought through. And at the very least, through persistent research, protest and media work, the PRO created a powerful chink in the armour of untouchable moral righteousness that continues to contribute so much to the lack of Garda accountability in Ireland.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Nolan: Disability Legislation welcome but does not go far enough

Nolan: Disability Legislation welcome but does not go far enough: Sinn Féin TD for the Offaly and North Tipperary constituency, Carol Nolan, has said that Sinn Féin welcomes the Disability Miscellaneous provisions Bill but states that the legislation does not go far enough. Teachta Nolan was speaking ...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

progressive-economy@tasc: Should judges be required to publicly declare thei...

progressive-economy@tasc: Should judges be required to publicly declare thei...: Nuala Haughey:  Should judges should be obliged to make annual declarations of interests – such as property, gifts, land, and shares – in m...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

progressive-economy@tasc: Should judges be required to publicly declare thei...

progressive-economy@tasc: Should judges be required to publicly declare thei...: Nuala Haughey:  Should judges should be obliged to make annual declarations of interests – such as property, gifts, land, and shares – in m...