Friday, 24 January 2014

Penalty Points and the Garda Commissioner

Whistleblowers are one of the most valuable human assets of a decent State.

Two whistleblowers are at present making the news in Ireland.  One is an ex-Garda the other is still serving as a member of the Garda.

Both blew the whistle on serious alleged corruption with regard to the wiping out of penalty points for important people by the Garda Síochána or members of that force.

One would expect that the Garda authorities would be glad to have corrupt Gardaí uncovered for the  sake of the country and for the sake of their more upright colleagues within the force.

But the Garda authorities are not happy.  Head honcho, Commissioner Martin Callanan, is not happy. He is so unhappy that he stooped to misrepresenting what had happened. He said that there is a method for making complaints within the Garda force.

 He did not say that the two whistleblowers had used this internal Garda complaint system.  It was because they had used it and had been ignored that they eventually decided their only way to uncover the scandal was to bring it to the attention  of Clare Daly TD an upright and honest politician.  She made it known to the Dáil.

Very shortly after doing this, Clare Daly was arrested by Gardaí, handcuffed and brought to a Garda station where her breathalyser test proved negative.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Callinan blocked the two whistleblowers from appearing before an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee to be questioned on their allegations by Committee members.

He has threatened court action to prevent them from being heard.  He has asked advice from the Attorney General.

He himself got a hearing before the same Committee yesterday.  He used the opportunity to describe the action of the two whistleblowers as "disgusting". They were not present to answer him.

He said he feared that both he and the whistleblowers would be in breach of  the Data Protection Act

New evidence has now been handed to the Committee.  It alleges, according to media reports, that more than 200 senior Garda officers inappropriately - and in most cases corruptly - wiped penalty points from driving licences.

And John McGuinness, Committee chairman, said the Committee had taken its own legal advice, and was assured the evidence - now redacted - was fully compliant with the Data Protection Act.

Meanwhile one whistleblower John Wilson has resigned from the force.  He found a dead rat tied to his front door one evening.  The other whistleblower is still in the force.

"Having been treated the way I was for reporting the above. I don't think that I would do it again," he wrote to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee.

"It destroyed me, my career and my family."


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Margaretta's Stand

One of the good things about Margaretta D'Arcy's jailing is that it has focused interest again on the State's abdication of the rights to monitor foreign aircraft at Shannon airport.

For some time the topic had gone off the radar of governance. Apart from Shannonwatch and the coterie of anti-war stalwarts who regularly or intermittently protest at Shannon on the second Sunday of every month, the burning issue of Shannon as a warport had died down.

The Labour and Green politicians who had waved banners there when they were in opposition deserted the cause when they became part of government. Only the voices of four independents, Sinn Féin TDs, a socialist and two "People before Profit" TDs were still on board.  The Fine Gael/Labour establishment ignored protests and told protestors in Dublin "Very few foreign planes pass through Shannon now".  Translation: "that was years ago - what are ye goin' on about?"

But Margaretta has raised the stakes.  She has put her body on the line. She has  stature.  A friend of President Michael D Higgins, a member of Aosdána, an author, an actress, an award winning film maker and prominent feminist, she turned the tables on the establishment during her trial.  Attempting to make a citizen's arrest on Judge Durcan (who fled the bench), she attempted to read out a statement that was grabbed from her hand but which got published anyway on social media.

Her imprisonment gave a brief awakening to the anti-war movement in Ireland. Weekly protests have been scheduled for Limerick, Dublin and Galway while she remains in prison. Sabina Higgins, wife of the President, has caused controversy by visiting Margaretta in prison.  Suddenly, the nation recalls that President Higgins (now silenced because of his office) was one of the most vocal and effective anti-war voices during his term as TD and Minister. He was a member of the Labour party which is now complicit in the virtual sell-out of Shannon airport.

My bet is that Margaretta D'Arcy is now an embarrassment to the powers that be.  In a reply to an e-mail I sent to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter, he implies  that he would like to free the doughty peace activist but cannot.

Stay strong Margaretta.  May the force be with you.  And may the revolution be non-violent.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The jailing of Margaretta D'Arcy - Letter to Minister Shatter

Prior to taking part in the protest outside the Department of Justice on Friday last, (17 January 2014), I sent the letter below to Minister Shatter.  There was an acknowledgment of receipt from his private secretary but no comment on the substance of the letter.

Dear Mr Shatter

Despite the continued abuse of Shannon airport by US troops passing
through it, no inspection of the US war planes has been sanctioned by
you. Meanwhile US drones continue to kill civilians (among others) in

When a woman called Margaretta D'Arcy protested non-violently against
this continued shameful wrongdoing inside Shannon airport, you have
jailed her.


I call on you to release her forthwith and accede to her just and
rightful demand that all military aircraft are inspected by Gardaí to
ensure that they are not carrying weapons, or prisoners for rendition.

With best personal wishes

Justin Morahan

pacifist, human rights activist

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Guantanamo protest - yet again

Hunger strikers news silenced
Justin and Colm
Justin and Colm

On Saturday, 11 January 2013, under a clear blue sky, Colm Roddy and I protested outside the US Embassy in Ballsbridge against the continuing US human rights abuses in Guantanamo prison. As usual, Colm was dressed in orange Guantanamo gear and spent most of his time kneeling, while I walked and kept warm.

It was the closing day of the Young Scientists Exhibition and crowds were flocking to the RDS, also located in Ballsbridge. Ironically, the Chargé d'affaires had an input there. (There is no US Ambassador in Ireland since 14 December 2014). Well done to overall winner Paul Clarke. Don't know how politically aware he might be but maybe sometime he will recall that there was a human rights protest, however small, outside the US embassy on the day that he was being deservedly feted for his brilliant achievement.

Being the day it was, there was little enough reaction to our protest. Car horns were blowing as they passed but mostly because of road rage due to traffic jams. A welcome few gave the thumbs up. We tried to hand in a letter but it was not accepted - we were asked to post it, which we will do. Meanwhile we are e-mailing it to the Embassy.

Letter to the US Embassy Chargé d'affaires Stuart Dwyer
11 January 2014

Dear Mr Dwyer

We are again protesting the illegal detention of prisoners at the notorious Guantanamo prison on the twelfth anniversary of its opening. The shocking scandal of people who were sold to your predecessor by unscrupulous bounty hunters remains alive - and as disgusting as ever - in 2014. The Gulag of the USA has been condemned worldwide but the USA has not listened to, or responded to, the criticism. As of December 18, 2013, 158 detainees remain in the hell-hole of Guantanamo.

The history of Guantanamo has been one of illegal beatings, torture, force feeding of hunger strikers, and suicides. In the infamous words of an Abu Graib
commander, she had orders that her prisoners were to be treated as Guantanamo prisoners were treated, "like dogs".

Despite your President's promises before his election to close down this infamous place within a year, it remains open. a year into his second term.

As late as 2012, Jimmy Carter criticized the methods used to obtain confessions: "some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by water-boarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semi-automatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defence by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of "national security" ".

A new wave of hunger strikes arose in early 2013. At its peak in July, 106 of the 166 detainees were on hunger strike, with 45 of them being force-fed.

Without any sense of shame or wrongdoing, on December 4th 2013, the US military announced that it would no longer disclose information about the hunger strikes, explaining that "The release of this information serves no operational purpose"!

Are these the actions of a terrorist State or of a civilised State?

The last disclosed figures in December 2013 showed numbers of hunger strikers rising to 15, with all being tube fed !

Shame on your government. In the face of such infamous secrecy concerning crimes against humans you need more whistleblowers of the calibre of Chelsea Manning - who should be released - and Edward Snowden. Both should be honoured for opposing lies with truth. As should all other people of integrity whom you persecute around the globe.

The President pleads that he cannot undo this wrongdoing because of Congress. That is his problem. The USA opened Guantanamo against all advice from international and human rights organizations. Just now the President is responsible for human rights abuses that are now being hidden. He must find a way.

With best personal wishes

Justin Morahan

Colm Roddy

Colm with placards
Colm with placards
Colm - typical pose for the day
Colm - typical pose for the day