Donal McKendry looks at the parallels.
The Jobstown case has once again shone light on the corruption in the Irish state and among powerful elements within the Gardaí. We are told that there was no conspiracy in this case. Instead, the prosecutor’s independence was robust enough to withstand any potential pressure that may come from the political establishment.
Yet the evidence provided by the Gardaí witness statements, and those by Joan Burton, were completely incompatible from the truth as seen in the video footage. It is difficult to see how a prosecutor, acting with complete independence, could bring a case with such glaring contradictions to trial and still be referred to as independent.
We are also told that the Gardaí are an independent professional organisation whose members would never engage in such a conspiracy with the government. Yet the Commissioner, Noreen O’Sullivan, has been under intense pressure in recent years with accusations of the persecution of whistleblowers, most notably, Garda Maurice McCabe. In that case we were told that there was no conspiracy to smear Garda McCabe but that we instead witnessed an unfortunate comedy of errors.
On the contrary, these cases share in common a clear intolerance of dissent within the Irish establishment that is less in keeping with a democratic society but more in tune with authoritarian ones and dictatorships.
If we compare the treatment of the Jobstown protestors with that of Ibrahim Halawa, the young Irish man who was arrested after peacefully protesting the Egyptian military coup in 2013, we can see similarities between the two governments’ approaches to dissent. In both cases, the defendants were arrested for peacefully protesting and charged with crimes that carry blatantly excessive sentences should they be convicted. The Jobstown protestors were charged with false imprisonment, which carries 20 years in prison, and terrorism charges for Ibrahim Halawa, who faces the death penalty if convicted.
But General Al-Sisi who rules Egypt is a military dictator who used force to overthrow a democratically elected government. Enda Kenny, Joan Burton and Leo Varadkar are supposed to be democrats!
Of course, it is important to say that no wrong doing at all has been proven in either case, but the severity of the charges alone demonstrate the motivation behind both prosecutions which is that dissent is to be feared and that dissenters are to be made an example of and their names blackened to prevent further dissent in the future. Luckily for the Jobstown protestors they faced a jury of their peers, who were able to see through the litany of lies presented to them. Young Ibrahim has no such luck.
In Cairo, Ibrahim has seen more trial postponements than he has had birthdays. He was arrested at age 17 and has spent the last four years imprisoned in a crowded cell. Fittingly, Paul Murphy, who was one of the Jobstown defendants, went to visit Ibrahim earlier this year to give support and to hear of the horrific treatment he has received. See this article by Paul Murphy in the Journal.ie. http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/ibrahim-halawa-td-delegation-3186139-Jan2017/
The Irish government has remained relatively silent during Ibrahim’s four year detention and seem happy to let Ibrahim wait even longer still. Yet Joan Burton isn’t expected to wait even for a couple of hours and Pat Hickey only had to wait 11 days before a government minister flew out to meet him in Brazil.
The Irish Government are not engaged in smearing Ibrahim but certain nasty, and often racist, elements within Irish society are conducting such a campaign, behind which the Irish Government are hiding. This is a more passive aggressive assault on dissent, but a deliberate attempt to deprive an Irish citizen of their rights nonetheless. Presumption of innocence, we are told, is a fundamental right of every Irish citizen. But the political class won’t fight for it while you’re abroad, unless you’re a wealthy white man detained in Brazil of course.
Class prejudice and racism represent the clear motivation behind the government’s actions. A culture of mutual backscratching among the political elite has resulted in a totally different experience for the McCabe family, the Halawa family and the Jobstown community than for the Noreen O’Sullivan’s and Pat Hickey’s of this world.
We must stand with all of the Jobstown protestors and we must stand with Ibrahim Halawa and all peaceful protestors both foreign and domestic, both home and abroad. Protest is not a crimein Tallaght or Cairo!