Sunday 19 January 2020

Drop the euphemisms - Garda 'strike' is a mutiny against State

'The threatened Garda strike action would be illegal' (Stock picture)
'The threatened Garda strike action would be illegal' (Stock picture)
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

When Robert Peel inaugurated the London Metropolitan Police in 1829 to replace parish policing, there was considerable public unease, anxiety and opposition. Peel devised nine principles, or general instructions, which underpin the legitimacy of policing today in Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK - these tenets were designed to foster the fundamental principle of policing a democracy through consent.

On appointment, each garda swears an oath to uphold the Constitution and the law. This oath takes account of the Peel principle that each member of An Garda Síochána must recognise always that their power to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

Media reporting of the threatened disruption to policing service is euphemistically described as "a strike" and a "withdrawal of labour" - despite the illegality of the initiative. Do the potential consequences of this threat to public safety and national security not warrant defining this threat for what it is - a potential mutiny, a blatant attack on the authority of the State, a brazen disregard for the Constitution and the law, spawned in the muddled melodramatic chaos of canteen culture?

Inaugurated in February 1922, the Civic Guard - which preceded An Garda Síochána - had a troubled birth. Less than three months after the appointment of the first Commissioner, Michael Staines (1885-1955), some 1,100 trainees staged a mutiny at the former British army barracks in Kildare, citing opposition to the appointment of eight of the first 12 senior officers on the grounds that they were former members of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

This incident challenged the authority of the State so severely that it caused Staines to promptly relinquish his commissionership.

Issues distilled within a canteen culture rarely anticipate unintended consequences, and these can be far more devastating than the substance of an issue in dispute. In this case, one consequence could be that Ireland ceases to be a charming and convivial democracy on the days that there are no cops on the street.

If the threatened disruption to normal policing materialises, the diminishing of the moral authority of the force and the fundamental authority of the State is likely to endure far longer than public sympathy with the fine-print detail of the underlying claims.

Perhaps those hell bent on threat, menace, disruption and chaos should bear in mind the Peel slogan that "the police are the public and the public are the police" and rethink the consequences of their paroxysm of rage.

Myles Duffy

Glenageary, Co Dublin

US democracy will survive 2016

America's near year-long pre-voting, twin intra-party debate marathons are followed by caucuses (town hall meetings with national consequences) and primary elections (with multiple 'Super' days).

This leads to raucous, stage-managed conventions, and then a no-holds-barred autumn campaign between the major party candidates. It is an extraordinary endeavour - laughed at, derided and yet an enthralling display of democracy. It is a magnitude of campaign intensity beyond anything on this side of the pond. The "mob rule" feared by Thomas Jefferson at its finest.

Democracy in America will survive the bizarre and often deplorable antics of Election 2016.

As voters soon begin to gather at polling stations across America's cities, towns, and rural communities (and as US voters beyond its shores head to post offices to dispatch their postal ballots), natural-born and naturalised American citizens will make their choices, directing America into an uncertain future, but not one devoid of hope.

Dan Donovan

Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Trump is just following Gore's lead

There seems to be an outcry in certain quarters at Donald Trump's suggestion that he might not automatically accept the result, should he lose, in a close election.

There was an extremely close presidential election in 2000, and the defeated Democratic candidate, Al Gore, withdrew his concession, and started whining about spoiled ballots and people accidentally voting for the wrong candidate, ultimately dragging the election to the Supreme Court.

Yet the same people who so vocally backed Mr Gore's childish behaviour 16 years ago are pillorying Mr Trump for suggesting results might be questioned.

The United States has a long history of disputed presidential elections. Who hasn't heard of Kennedy supporters stuffing the ballot boxes in Chicago?

In 1876, some states returned two different sets of results, causing a dispute which ran for four months after the election, many calling for armed conflict as the only way to settle it.

Even the 'founding fathers' struggled with controversy - Thomas Jefferson's election was challenged by his own running mate, in a dispute that dragged on into February.

But maybe most relevant was when Andrew Jackson was defeated, when he claimed the election had been "a corrupt bargain", a stance he maintained all his life.

His supporters proceeded to block every proposal by the new president, causing stalemate in the country. Jackson kept shouting about the corrupt bargain and ran again four years later, this time winning.

Maybe Andrew Jackson's picture will be hanging on the wall of Mr Trump's office for the next few years.

Peter Cosgrove

Wellingtonbridge, Co Wexford

Donohoe remarks hurt politics

It beggars belief that Paschal Donohoe would suggest that politicians need to be paid more to ensure they do not become compromised.

The more I think about it, the more offended and angry I get.

I agree with the much-articulated view that the upcoming €300 a month increase for TDs makes the €5 increase for pensioners and the €3.36 increase per week in take-home pay for the ordinary worker look paltry.

Mr Donohoe has been on the political scene a long time and his views would be informed by this experience. Is he saying that there is a culture where politicians are self-serving?

How do his colleagues feel about his views?

Thankfully, not all politicians are of the same ilk. Some actually put themselves forward for the job for the right reasons, knowing all the terms and conditions, and accept these before applying.

We the electorate are the bosses and if Paschal and his amigos have an issue with pay and performance maybe we should carry out a full review and call for a general election.

Killian Brennan

Malahide Road, Dublin 17

Irish Independent

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