The case for a reformed Senate

What is the Senate good for? Ideally, in a bicameral legislature, each house acts as a check and/or balance to the other. In our case, however, there is no check, given that the balance is well and truly tipped in favour of the Government of the day. The Taoiseach gets to nominate eleven Senators, which is a nice head start, but it’s hardly necessary: even though all Dáil bills need the approval of both houses, if the Senate rejects them, the government can ‘deem’ them to have passed anyway (after a maximum 180-day waiting period).

Disclosures Tribunal—update

In the third interim report of the Disclosures Tribunal, Justice Peter Charleton correctly goes to justifiable lengths to clear Maurice McCabe of any wrongdoing, describing him as a ‘genuine person who at all times has had the interests of the people of Ireland uppermost in his mind’. He gave McCabe a glowing character reference. The vast majority of people in Ireland would agree.

Of motherhood and madness

The full facts of the ‘Kerry babies’ case may never be known—we may never find out who killed the baby found on the Cahersiveen beach. The original investigation was notable for the extent to which garda energy was directed not towards finding out who killed the baby, but towards building a prosecutorial case against Joanne Hayes, even after it became clear that she was not and could not have been the mother, much less the murderer, of that baby. In the words of Tom Inglis, ‘You could not make it up. There are so many elements to the Kerry babies case that make it seem like a weird novel set in some dystopian society’

Kerry Babies: The official story

Since material evidence was uncertain or contradictory, one had to resort to evidence of a mental kind; and where could one find it, except in the very mentality of the accusers? The motives and sequence of actions were therefore reconstituted off-hand but without a shadow of a doubt. (Mythologies, Roland Barthes)

The ‘evidence of a mental kind’ that built the case against Joanne Hayes—off-hand, without material evidence, but without a shadow of a doubt—was obviously in place from the beginning (and before the beginning) of the investigation.

The authorised truth

To establish that Joanne Hayes was the kind of woman John Courtney had predicted she would be, her lover, Jeremiah Locke, was questioned as to the time, place, and manner of their illicit lovemaking. He was given an ordnance survey map and asked to point out exactly where on the road to Abbeydorney they had pulled off to have sex in the back seat of his white mini car.
He revealed that she had not been a virgin when he met her. Barrister Martin Kennedy, representing Garda superintendents, justified this questioning by asking ‘Did she love this man or love what he or some other man was prepared to do with her?’

The official truth

Nowhere is the operation of power relations more obvious than in the Report of the Lynch Tribunal. Lynch prefaces his highly speculative account of the birth of Hayes’s baby with this remarkable passage:

This Chapter contains fewer references than most of the other Chapters in this Report, to the transcripts of the evidence given at the hearings of the Tribunal of Inquiry. The reason is that most of the facts found in this Chapter are found by inference from other facts found in this Report, or by inference from evidence not directly supporting such facts, but indirectly doing so to the satisfaction of the Tribunal. 

An Garda in the twenty-first century

Drew Harris takes on the Garda Commissioner job as the force grapples with vicious gang warfare on the streets of the Republic, with self-inflicted wounds from scandals over phantom breathalyser tests, disappearing penalty points, and the scandalous treatment of whistleblowers, and with a new report from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) that strongly criticises An Garda Síochána’s approach to policing in several areas including public order policing, the use of force, the detention of suspects, the investigation of hate crime, and its dealings with Roma and Travellers. The report calls for a more radical approach and a change in the mindset of the Garda.

Coercion, confessions, and the garda code of silence

Older Dubliners will tell you that we never had anything like the street violence we see today when Lugs Brannigan was around; those whose historical glasses have lost the rose tint, however, remember the running street battles involving the ‘animal gangs’ of the 1930s and ‘40s, and the ‘Teddy Boys’ of the ‘50s (though admittedly they didn’t have guns, just knives, hatchets, bicycle chains, iron bars, knuckle dusters, and the rest). The legendary garda’s method of policing apparently consisted largely in a clip around the ear or a kick up the arse and that was enough to keep Dublin safe.

Changing Policing in Ireland

Speaking in October 2014 Frances Fitzgerald said that in order to make An Garda Síochána the best possible police force for the country, substantial changes were needed and promised that the proposed Policing Authority would bring a new layer of public accountability and transparency to the administration and oversight of policing. But then, along came whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson telling about systemic mismanagement and worse among the gardaí. It appears that little energy was expended on investigating wrongdoing—this time within the gardaí—but huge efforts were made to nail the ‘rats’ who informed on them.