Former Attorneys General Warn Against Oireachtas Investigative Powers

I have often disagreed with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, and I’ve never agreed with Michael McDowell about anything, yet, disconcertingly, I find myself completely at one with them on the proposed constitutional amendment giving draconian powers of investigation to parliament.  It’s dangerous.

Giving politicians a private police force to kick down doors and haul accused people before them is never a good idea.

It wasn’t a good idea in East Germany, it wasn’t a good idea when Senator Joseph McCarthy was destroying lives in the USA and it’s not a good idea here.  By all means, give politicians the right to ask hard questions, but at your peril do you give them the right to arrest and condemn you.  I can’t say this strongly enough: if we hand this sort of power to politicians, we lay the foundations for a police state at some time in the future.

I know the courts are flawed, and I know the tribunals have huge failings, but that can be fixed and, for the most part, judges are objective.  Of course, some of them are incompetent, some are biased and some are just time-serving drunks, but what section of society is free of these things?  Politicians, on the other hand, are never objective, and also rank among their numbers a share of incompetents, of bias and of hopeless drunks who stay up all night singing songs.

The difference?  A politician is always thinking of Number One, because that’s the nature of politics.

In this proposal, there will be no juries of your peers.  There will be no defence lawyers, expensive or otherwise.  There will only be judges.  Politically-motivated judges who stand to benefit from a populist verdict, even if it involves the destruction of your reputation.

They’re saying that the legislation is drafted, but of course this has nothing to do with the constitutional amendment.  Once passed, they can draft whatever powers for themselves they wish, but far more significantly, so can any future government.  So even if you think the current crowd are reasonably decent, this is not enough.  The amendment you vote on next Thursday is for your children, your grandchildren and all future generations.

How do we know what kind of oppressive government might  spring to power in the future?  What if civil unrest grows due to cutbacks and continued austerity?

What if some some government decides, as Bertie Ahern suggested, that it would be a good idea to investigate people who criticise it, including entering their homes and seizing their property: notebooks, computers, recordings, photos and anything else the political police consider worth taking?  This amendment, whether intended or otherwise, creates the power to do precisely that and crush all future dissent.

Does the word Stasi come to mind?

If we vote yes to this amendment, we lay the foundations for a police state should any future unscrupulous government choose to take advantage.

Are you confident that no Irish politician will ever do that, at any time in the future?  If your answer is yes, you can support the amendment.  Otherwise, you have no option but to reject it.


29 thoughts on “Former Attorneys General Warn Against Oireachtas Investigative Powers

  1. Bock, I have always liked what you post, I have not always agreed with what you post, in the main you do hold very well to your views. You don`t suffer fools gladly, you are forceful in your beliefs. I do indeed respect all of that in you and about you. You are sorely needed.

    The other day I posted that I would vote no to both referenda, I did`nt and don`t disagree with most of what you have posted here and on that other thread.

    When I saw the letter today and the names of the people attached thereon, namely McDowell & Sutherland I had a crisis on my hands. If it means leaping into the flames then I`m prepared to do so. There is absolutely no way on this earth or in my lifetime will I be on the same side as those two people. I will now be voting yes to both referenda and the devil take the hindmost.

    They are representitive of all that is rotten in our society the fat cat lawyers and bankers that have brought this beautiful country to its knees. I certainly hope some of what you have feared comes to pass on these despicable people and would most certainly not shed one tear if they were dragged through all the mud in the world to shame and punish them for their actions.

    If what i have written seems selfish then so be it, I sincerly hope all those bastards suffer.

  2. I’m afraid there’s a logical fallacy in what you say. People you hate can also, occasionally, be right, and in this case, they are, even if their argument is made for selfish reasons. Perhaps it shows what a dangerous proposal is being made.

    Be careful what you vote for. The chance won’t come again.

  3. I don’t like Peter Sutherland either, Islandbank, nor am I fond of Finian McGrath but I will be voting no, the whole thing politically motivated inquiry makes me uneasy, particularly in light in what has happened in the last few years where decisions have been made based on doctrine, hysteria and misplaced anger. The mechanisms for an inquiry are already there but this is taking a step further.

    When has the Irish Council of Civil Liberties and Michael McDowell ever agreed on anything?
    It’s disturbing that there has been very little debate on this in the media.

  4. Attorneys General? I think not

    PETER SUTHERLAND: Goldman Sachs

    JOHN ROGERS: Litigated the Abbeylara case on behalf of the Gardai.

    HAROLD WHELEHAN: Attorney General who precipitated the X-case by refusing the right to travel to the pregnant 14 year old.

    DERMOT GLEESON: Ex-Chairman of AIB. (What more do you want Bock?)

    MICHAEL MCDOWELL: PD/FF Attorney General. Responsible for appointing Justice Adrian Haridman(Mr A Case, Portmarnock Gold club gender ruling), amending the constitution to remove citizenship rights from children born in this state. Made handsome fees at the Moriarty Tribunal.

    This referendum is about the banks. These men work on behalf of the banks and the banking putsch. It is not the amendment which is a threat to this state, but the continued ability of these men to operate as they have done, against the interests of the state and of the people.

    Bock, it is the powerful interests railing against this amendment who are the real threat to Ireland—now and in the future. I hope you reflect on what rejecting this amendment means for justice and the power of privileged circles in this country.

  5. I will vote in favour. No more bullshit, bring the wrongdoers to book. The Bill provides adequate protections for those wrongly accused. IMO.

  6. Reflecting on what rejecting this amendment means for justice and the power of privileged circles in this country, I will be voting no.

    Yes, the referendum is portrayed as being about the banks but what future use will be made by these powers? What abuses of justice will result if the politicians concerned are “connected” with object of an inquiry?

  7. Bock,

    in things like this I ask myself WWBD & WWCJD What would Bertie do? and What would CJ do? The worst and the most corrupt taoisigh in the country’s history. Bertie, the worst because his mucky handprints are all over everything that led us to where we are. I can’t say anything about him being corrupt because as of now no facts are proven but that may change. Either way there are still grounds for having huge concerns about his honesty and probity. CJH was the most corrupt taoiseach we ever had, one who was absolutely ruthless and who was a good talent spotter hence his statement about the most devious of them all. His bagman who supplied him with books of signed blank cheques.

    What would either of these two august personages have done if placed in a situation where they considered themselves under threat (real or otherwise) and had such powers at their disposal?

    Now if that doesn’t scare anyone into voting no I don’t know what will.

  8. Much as it makes my flesh crawl to be in the same company as those mulloscs, I will be voting ‘NO’ to both proposals for amendment. Simple message to the Oireachtas: go back, and think again about the wording.

    I found these articles interesting:

  9. Naomi Kleins book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ vividly describes how public disorientation after a disaster allows vested interests to pass legislation which further their own ends. I think this idea is neo liberal in it’s thinking, and that Fine Gael propose it is no surprise (a right wing law and order party). That Labour support it is sadly no surprise either, given their ‘Green Party like’ willingness to support anything the big boy in the coalition proposes. We have problems but this ain’t the way to solve them as historical precedent clearly shows.

  10. I’d prefer to discuss the proposal on its merits. It’s extremely illogical to be in favour of it simply because the likes of Dermot Gleeson and Peter Sutherland are against it.

    It would be equally illogical to oppose it just because it suits the agenda of people like Bertie Ahern.

    Ad hominem arguments have no place in discussing a matter as serious as this proposal.

  11. It’s quite difficult to leave ad hominem arguements out of a question such as this. A problem I and others have with this amendment is that it is being proposed by politicians. Another is it’s vagueness in relation to ‘principles of fair procedure’. Why by the way are kangaroo courts so called?

  12. Obsessivemaths has put it more eloquently then I could and much much clearer. Leopards never never change their spots.

  13. If the referendum was about banks, Abbeylara or baristers’ fees, OMF might have a point. However, it is not just about banks, no matter how loudly people try to insist that it is. To believe that is foolish. In the wrong hands, this provision can be used as an instrument of political control.

    Anyway, I was never an attorney general or a banker, so therefore, could you please tell me what is wrong with the points I made in this post. If you think the AGs are wrong, say why. Don’t just reel off a litany of things you don’t like about them. That’s not an argument.

  14. Anyway, I was never an attorney general or a banker, so therefore, could you please tell me what is wrong with the points I made in this post. If you think the AGs are wrong, say why.

    Right fine, I’ll deal with the AGs letter. They wrote:

    The proposal in relation to Oireachtas enquiries seriously weakens the rights of individual citizens, firstly to protect their good names, and secondly to have disputes between themselves and the Oireachtas concerning their constitutional rights (especially their rights to fair procedures) decided by an independent judiciary

    The Ags are wrong here on both counts.

    1. Firstly, the amendment does not seriously weaken citizens rights to protect their good names. The amendment grants powers of investigation to the oireachtas, but they may only make findings of fact about someone “in respect of the conduct of that person concerning the matter to which the inquiry relates”. In short, you can only have your good name sullied if your own misconduct sullies it and an inquiry unearths your shady dealings.

    2. The AGs second point is totally incorrect. They argue that citizens will lose their rights to have “disputes between themselves and the Oireachtas concerning their constitutional rights decided by an independent judiciary”. This is absolute rubbish. The amendment says absolutely nothing about restricting the ability of citizen to make appeals on constitutional grounds. The way is open for Gleeson et al to appeal their treatment at any inquiry to the supreme court.

    What the amendment does actually do is weaken the grounds on which powerful crooks with teams of lawyers can go bawling off to the supreme court every time TDs ask them a question they don’t like. But, the ability of TDs to dictate the extent of the inquiry is subject to important restrictions as outline in the actual amendment

    It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2° applies

    Everyone latches onto the “It shall be for the houses to determine” part, but has their blinders on when it comes to the “due regard to the appropriate balance” part. The amendment constrains the oireachtas from the get go, as they cannot ask anyone any question which is against fair procedure or which is not expressly in the public interest.

    Everyone(esp. the AGs) seems to have wilfully forgotten that witnesses can still appeal their treatment to the Supreme Court on this very issue. If an oireactas committee thumps Bock over the head and demands to know what he had for breakfast, he can legitimately appeal to the courts that no due regard was given to fair procedure and that the question was not in the public interest. Yes, you can still appeal to the courts.

    The Attorneys General were lying in their letter. You can still have have your dispute with the Dail decided by the courts. What you won’t be able to do, is go cribbing to the courts that your privy activities in wrecking the country are your own private business, and you known everyone in the law library anyway, etc, etc, and expect to be let off the hook. Instead the court will consider whether or not your activities in charge of a bank that wrecked Ireland are primarily a matter of private or public interest and will tell you to get back into the inquiry and answer the TDs fair questions.

    That is of course what Dermot Gleeson is afraid of. He’s simply spun up phantom and false scenarios—abusing his position as a former AG—in order to make one last conflicted interest effort to get himself off the hook. If he succeeds, the Irish will get the country they deserve.

  15. You must have misread my question. I didn’t ask you to deal with the points made by the AGs. I asked you to rebut the points I made.

  16. To think that judges are objective is deluded. They are guided by the law and
    legal truths even if those legal truths fly in the face of all rational thought.
    How else have the middle classes being able to fuck the worker since the foundation of this state? Those attorneys general are protecting their patch
    and their monopoly on “making findings of fact or wrongdoing”.
    Michael “Let’s abolish the right to silence” McDowell and Peter “the architect
    of the planet’s economic woes” Sutherland (Goldmann Sachs was the pay-off) who displayed complete disdain for fair procedure during the G.A.T.T.talks are both crying crocodile tears for fair play.
    No doubt politicians will abuse any powers they have but it is not going
    to happen in every instance and unlike judges we can get rid of them.If I recall at the time somebody wanted to find out how yon poor lad died and who if anyone was to blame.

  17. It’s not about judges.

    It’s about juries. And it’s about giving politicians their own private police force.

    Are you saying you’d prefer to be judged by a politician than by a jury?

  18. If one is found “guilty” by the Dail they would still have to put one through
    the courts before any punishment can come into play.Also one has recourse to the
    European Court of Human Rights should the Dail be overstepping the mark.

    As to being to who is the more objective judges or politicians that is moot.

    The criminalisation of pot was a political act but the judges are all too happy
    to play along with the demonisation of marijuana and it’s users and wash their
    hands saying the law is the law.

    Also judges will turn a blind eye to the infringement of the rights of the
    accused because the proceedings are away from the glare of publicity any
    action of the Dail’s “private police force” would attract.

  19. I’m not convinced that a group of politicians acting on a committee could be defined as “thinking of No. 1 ” Grandstanding of course, but they’d still have to convince the body charged with activating an investigation that their charges had merit. So, even if future governments were less inclined to act in a way we find acceptable there’d have to be collusion from committee stage right down to investigative stage. Bit of a stretch in an essentially chaotic country I think; I mean Ireland doesn’t really do totalitarian, does it ? As for the concept of ” good name ” well, either you have it or you don’t. Accusations that don’t stand up won’t take away your good name…more likely to add to it imho.

  20. It’s still the first thing out the window when that sleazy aul’ fecker, ‘reason’ pops his nasty pointy head up: infuriating logic!

    That any thinking person would believe they could be in receipt of honest dealings from the likes of Willy O’Dea, Bertie Ahern and their ilk, over a legitimate, fully functional (and seen to be so) judicial system, is simply mind-boggling.

    Only in in a banana republic.

  21. If I remember correctly Bertie was allowed to sidestep questions that arose
    from the differences between statements he made to a tribunal and those he made
    in the Dail as anything he said there was covered by parliamentary privelege.
    A Dail committee could have got to the truth if it had the powers.

    The Irish judicial system is a joke. It is next to impossible to test evidence
    properly due to the theatrics of the court set up.

  22. If there are problems with the judicial system, surely the answer is to fix them instead of giving such powers to the likes of Michael Lowry or future Haugheys.

  23. I agree with Unstranger.
    The country is up shits creek because of our politicians being in cahoots with gangsters. Them putting their chums on management boards. I.e: DDDA.
    If we need quicker, less expensive inquiries, it should be aimed at them.
    It doesn’t make sense to me that people say that we need this as the tribunals were so expensive.
    The bloody tribunals were because of political corruption.

    Also, there’s been too little information and too late on this.
    If in doubt say no is my thinking.
    They’ll have to try harder next time.

  24. In the words of Roger Waters: “Youll never have their standard issue kicking in your door”(The Gunners Dream).
    Vote No.

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