Sunday, April 22, 2007

on passing by- again
I’m sure you are all aware of the notion of a police state, much talked about in old Eastern European regimes. They have all but died out at this stage but a more pernicious development now seems to be appearing on the horizon.
The Peoples Socialist Republic of Ireland!.
Mock ye not!
The Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell seems to spend his waking hours thinking up new laws to give more powers to the Government, the Gardai and anyone else he thinks could benefit. Every single crisis seems to result in a move to either tighten up current legislation or introduce new legislation in an almost knee-jerk fashion. That the rush to bring in these new laws has already resulted in the need for emergency reworks seems not to bother the Minister at all.
And yet the more legislation he enacts the lower the detection rates drop. Surely before we continue the headlong rush for new laws we should try to properly enforce the ones we already have.
McDowell is currently pushing through new legislation which will include provision for electronically tagging people on bail. Is this the same tagging that the Minister so emphatically rejected as unworkable less than six months ago? The Minister is obviously aware of a recent quantum leap in technology, knowledge of which is being kept from the rest of us.
While all this is going on senior Gardai are being used in witch hunts against journalists who have published leaked material from tribunals. Recently Mick MacCaffrey was arrested and questioned for eight hours by Gardai from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation. These people are part of the serious crime unit who are supposed to be getting rid of the crime and drug lords and yet we have them spending seven months investigating a leak from a tribunal. The leak was only marginally ahead of the official report and the journalist in question thought it was in the public interest to publish his story. And he gets arrested.
Contrast this with the Minister himself, Mr McDowell, who has somewhat of a chequered history when it comes to leaks. There were allegations in both 2005 and 2006 that the Minister had leaked files on businessman Phil Flynn, which led to him being investigated by the CAB. What was the result of the Garda investigation into this allegation?
Moving from allegation to fact what was the result of the Garda investigation after a Garda file on Frank Connolly was leaked to the media. Surely there could be no doubt as to who was responsible for the leak after McDowell admitted that he himself had leaked the file. He said he was able to do this under the Official Secrets Act and that he was acting in the interests of state security, and yet was unable to produce any evidence that would show that Connolly was any threat to the security of the state.
After the tens of millions spent on the beef tribunal the only person ever to be charged was a journalist, Susan O Keeffe, who refused to reveal her sources, even though it should have been obvious to the tribunal that this was a stance that would be taken by any journalist in a democratic country. And the outcome? Everyone’s interest diverted from the real scandal.
I think it is high time for the Government and certain Ministers in particular, to get their own houses in order before they start on the rest of us.

It seems the closer the election gets the more bananas are being strewn about to catch unwary Ministers. In a recent statement Micheal Martin has promised that the Government is to set aside more resources to help retrain workers who have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs in the recent spate of redundancies. He went on to say that we can’t compete with Poland because we cannot expect Irish workers to work for one euro fifty per hour. Wouldn’t you think that as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mr Martin would know that to even offer such an amount would be illegal under current legislation enacted by his department.
And then there’s my poor old friend Dick Roche. In what could only be described as a delicious irony the latest report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on Urban Waste Water Discharges notes that not only has Bray been putting waste water into the sea after only preliminary treatment but that the secondary treatment facilities which Bray should have had in action before December 2000 are still not in place. How such a situation could occur is baffling considering the Minister for the Environment lives in..…, Bray.
So Fine Gael have started setting out their stall for the General Election. To accuse the Government of election and auction politics and then come along and promise widened tax bands, lower tax rates and changes to stamp duty smacks slightly of hypocrisy but then again it’s hardly worth getting worked up over. I still remember the “promises” that Fianna Fail and the P.D.s made before the last election. As soon as they got back in it turned out that some of the promises were not actually promises at all but merely aspirations. Election promises from all parties should come with a “belief” warning i.e. believing this could damage your health, wealth, etc etc.
All for now. M.E.

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