Monday 9 December 2019

Elected politicians advocating civil unrest is a dangerous precedent

Elizabeth Murphy, Noreen Walsh, Evelyn Sheehan and Maragret Murphy who took part in the march against Water Chargers in Mallow last Saturday. Photo by Bernadette Hayes
Elizabeth Murphy, Noreen Walsh, Evelyn Sheehan and Maragret Murphy who took part in the march against Water Chargers in Mallow last Saturday. Photo by Bernadette Hayes

Liz O'Donnell

No Government likes to climb down, apologise or reverse red-faced out of a policy decision but sometimes in politics it is the least bad option.

The scale of protest over water charges right around the country has badly rattled the Coalition. They could have sustained the usual barrage of rhetoric from the looney left and Sinn Fein as par for the course, but the sight of so many ordinary people out on the streets was a gamechanger.

Government backbenchers are running scared of the white heat of public anger given the proximity to the next election. Labour, who has most to lose on this issue, cracked first. Labour senators voting with the opposition on a knee-jerk proposal to insert a public water clause in the Constitution is a measure of the disarray.

Why it has to take two weeks to come up with what is going to be effectively a capitulation is baffling and damaging to Government. Environment Minister Alan Kelly's best efforts to find a solution may not suffice; as a political problem, it is beyond repair. Enshrining an inalienable right to public water in the Constitution is ill-judged; the Constitution is no place for such provisions. We have spent the last 30 years wrestling with the problems of the pro-life amendment to the Constitution.

Less is more when it comes to constitutions. The private property rights in the Constitution have stymied reforms to upward only rents and other necessary reforms. And the family rights in the Constitution have obstructed state intervention for child protection for decades.

Think of the folly of having a prohibition on divorce in our Constitution, and the political difficulties of removing it. If we start enshrining such resources in the Constitution where would it end? Oil, energy, minerals, bogs?

And to add to the Government's bruises, an opinion poll suggests Sinn Fein's support appears unscathed by the controversy over its treatment of child abusers within the IRA ranks. Could it be the party now enjoys a level of allegiance immune to scandal, past or present?

Mairia Cahill's torment continues with a campaign by republicans and Sinn Fein to discredit her. She would be well advised to take a civil action against Sinn Fein/IRA in the absence of an offer of compensation to her by those who mistreated her. It's not as though they would not be a good mark. Sinn Fein is now the wealthiest party in the State, with major fundraising capacity. What other party can command $500- plate fundraisers in the United States?

A mid-week radio discussion about a major diesel laundry find near Inniskeen, on the border of Armagh, Louth and Monaghan, raised serious questions about the ongoing involvement of republicans in organised crime. The plant, with a capacity to launder 20 million litres of diesel a year, was raided by Customs Officers in an early morning operation following Garda surveillance over many months.

Intelligence suggests that republicans of various hues are profiteering from these extensive Europe-wide activities, at a cost to the exchequer of tens of millions.

If there is any evidence to link the IRA to this criminality, Gerry Adams, as the local TD, should be asked to account for it and assist gardai in prosecuting those responsible.

Des O'Malley's memoir 'Conduct Unbecoming' offers a unique insight into the threat posed by republicans and their supporters to the stability of the State itself in the early 1970s. He describes the menacing atmosphere in and around the Arms Crisis and the shocking predicament facing Taoiseach Jack Lynch when informed that two of his ministers, Charlie Haughey and Neil Blaney, were involved in a conspiracy to import arms illegally for use by republicans in the North.

These days, such audacity and deviant behaviour by constitutional politicians within a government is simply unimaginable. The subsequent acquittal of those charged, described as "totally illogical" by O'Malley, was followed by the political rehabilitation of Mr Haughey as Taoiseach. Ironically, what ultimately brought Mr Haughey down was not the arms trial but financial impropriety as exposed by a Tribunal.

Politics is a hard game. Those with "flawed pedigree" can be electorally successful in the teeth of evidence against them. Could Sinn Fein's unstoppable rise be yet another example of ambivalence about wrongdoing? Too often in Irish politics there is a willingness by voters to turn a blind eye to moral and financial failings in politicians.

A similar ambivalence is now apparent as a cohort of democratically elected politicians advocate law-breaking and civil unrest. This is a dangerous development in our democracy which needs to be challenged.

Irish Independent

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