It's one law for them...

While some sectors of our society are allowed to break the law with impunity, others who act in an entirely lawful manner are harassed by the gardaí because their actions are a political irritant to the Government. By David Johnson.

On Saturday morning a volley of three shots rang out across the north Dublin sky. Three shots fired over the house of a slain member of a terrorist group and suspected criminal boss, believed executed by a rival criminal gang whom he had apparently targeted through robbery and extortion. Later in the day a second group of uniformed paramilitaries arrived to provide an honour guard at his funeral, the large crowd observed by numerous gardaí who took no action.

Early on Sunday afternoon as the County faithful arrived at Croke Park for the All-Ireland Hurling Final, they were met by a small group of activists from the Ballyhea Bank Bondholder Bailout Protest. This group has been marching every week in Ballyhea for the last 79 weeks to highlight the criminal injustice of the payout of billions by the Irish government to the holders of secured and unsecured Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide, AIB, Bank of Ireland and EBS bonds (the latest tranche of which was paid last week to the tune of €600m for Anglo's follies with a further €62m on its way out this week to holders of unsecured Bank of Ireland bonds) and the resulting debt enslavement of a generation or two to wipe the slate clean of the gambling mistakes of a tiny handful of Irish plutocrats. On Sunday afternoon the group walked from the Garden of Remembrance up to Croke Park, and as they attempted to hand out leaflets to the arriving crowds they were prevented from doing so by the gardaí, who cited "Health and Safety" issues as the justification for their actions.

This is what I have learned today: that I live in a city where paramilitaries can stage a show of strength under the eyes of gardaí, after earlier firing shots over the house of a slain terrorist and criminal, and have no action taken against them, but the attempted distribution of leaflets at a GAA match criticising the actions of the Government is now a public order offence of such enormous proportions that it must be disrupted immediately.

This year alone the army bomb disposal team has been called out 133 times in 252 days, or roughly once every two days, almost entirely to deal with criminal-on-criminal activity, and yet the criminals and terrorists responsible are allowed to hold a lavish display of strength as gardaí stand by and watch. Over the course of the year over €19 billion will be paid out to the foreign holders of Irish bank bonds by our Government, and yet to date the only arrests of bankers involved in the criminal fraud that collapsed these banks and led to the socialised debt that has destroyed our economy have been tokenistic efforts - the timing of which always seems to coincide with some bad news the Government is so desperately trying to obfuscate. 

While there never seem to be enough gardaí to investigate the bankers, or remove the terrorists from the streets, there are always more than enough to act on Shell's behalf and harass the Corrib locals who seek to protect their homes and livelihoods from corporate exploitation; there always seem to be enough to destroy a peaceful protest camp at 3am in the morning so that a Paddy's Day parade can pass by without the international cameras witnessing scenes of public dissent in the heart of Dublin; and there always seem to be enough to snatch leaflets from the hands of a small group of campaigners outraged at the activities that the Government continues to carry out in their name.

I am not criticising the actions of individual rank-and-file gardaí, for while at times they can be heavy-handed, in my normal day-to-day encounters I find them to be friendly and helpful, acting with a sense of duty to their fellow citizens, all the while armed with nothing more than a firm tone of voice and a countenance of mild irritation. However when they are wielded as an instrument of political containment by their leadership on behalf of the government of the day, when they trample over the very liberties they as guardians of the peace were established to protect, and when they then stand by and do nothing as the criminals in balaclavas or in Louis Copeland suits act with impunity while picking clean the ragged carcass of our society, then the motivations of the police force and of the government that employs them to quash civil dissent must be questioned, and questioned thoroughly.

The Minister for Justice may indeed (and rightly so) have labelled the events at Saturday's funeral as "reprehensible and absolutely unacceptable", but as long as some sectors of our society are allowed to break the law with impunity while others who act in an entirely lawful manner are harassed by the gardaí because their actions are a political irritant to the Government, it is sadly all too evident that the criminals and terrorists do not exercise a monopoly on behaviour that is reprehensible.

Image top courtesy Ballyhea Bondholder Bailout Protest on Facebook.