Monday, 27 April 2015

Theatre of the Absurd in Ennis Court

On Wednesday 22 April Judge Patrick Durcan found Clare Daly TD and Mick Wallace TD "guilty as charged" and they will face a sentence of 30 days imprisonment if they fail to pay fines of €2000 each.

This is another example of the petty and hypocritical system of justice that obtains in Ireland.  Who will now charge the Irish government with complicity in war crimes?

The judge had heard evidence that weapons galore were found on US planes at Shannon. The Irish government has been in denial of this. Gardaí have orders not to conduct searches. The TDs were challenged by Ministers to find evidence. They went over the perimeter fence at the airport to do just that. They were arrested and charged with breaking airport bye-laws. And they were found guilty.

Both of these honourable, elected representatives of the Irish people had gone to extraordinary lengths to obtain straight answers in the Dáil as to why US aircraft both military and civilian were, contrary to law, carrying weapons to theatres of war through Shannon airport without being searched. They had been fobbed off with deceitful and clever replies: the Government was certain that no laws were broken because the US government had given them assurances
and the irish government believed those assurances.  But if the Deputies had any evidence of planes at Shannon carrying arms they should bring the evidence immediately to the attention of the Gardaí.

So, the deputies with some difficulty, climbed over the fence.

Their arrest meant that they themselves found no evidence.  But it turned up at their trial in Ennis. Dr Tom Clonan, a former Irish Army officer, had been given access to two US military planes and had seen the arms. Two airport workers, Patrick O'Toole and Robert Gardiner similarly saw the arms on board several times.  They courageously informed the court.

Over two days in 2014 and 2015 we had heard these voices of reason and sanity ring out in that courtroom. Others gave evidence about possible war crimes being committed at Shannon by the government. Dr Ed Horgan, Dr John Lannon, Denis Halliday, Margaretta D'Arcy, Robert Zamora, Mick Wallace TD and Clare Daly TD All of the expert evidence that the Government had asked for was there.  The judge said he accepted all of it as true.

Arms were being carried on board the US planesthrough our civilian airport.

Then, on judgement day, as if we were characters from the absurd watching a scene from Franz Kafka or Albert Camus or Neil Caiman - or all three together - we partially heard the words from the bench.  They were uttered sotto voce at breakneck speed and, of course, the defence would not be given a written copy. The gist of it was that international crimes were not a matter for the court. It was a crime however to climb over the fence and ask to inspect US planes.

It was as if Judge Durcan had accepted the expert evidence but had not heard it  There had been no war in Iraq or Afghanistan, no rendition flights, no Guantanamo, no passage of 2.25 million US troops through Shannon airport, no million dead, no 4 million displaced, no chaos in Syria and Iraq, no rise of Isis and no Irish participation in all of this deserving of examination or scrutiny.  An airport bye-law had been breached. The judge said the two were guilty as charged.

The two elected representatives had failed to get eye-witness evidence of their own to show to the Minister that international crimes were being committed at Shannon airport. But who cares about that? All the eye-witness evidence given to the court by accepted witnesses was irrelevant.  All that talk about the responsibilities of citizens to break unjust laws as laid down in the Nuremberg principles was irrelevant as was the fact that district courts must take cognisance of matters where human rights are infringed.

The judge had a simpler decision to make.  The two parliamentarians had infringed airport bye-laws.  Therefore "guilty as charged".

Or as the prosecutor had put it to the two defendants:  "Ye went over the fence.  It's as simple as that".

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