Do Irish people know the difference between breaking the law and fighting for justice?

Water tap by Rodger / Flickr
Water tap by Rodger / Flickr

Protest against water charges in Ireland in recent months has been vocal, strong and resolute. Reaction of people in recent days over the incarceration of those who broke exclusion zones around water metres, was in contrast quite varied. There seems to exist a relationship of fear between the people and the legal system in Ireland.

Water tap by Rodger / Flickr
Water tap by Rodger / Flickr

Irish people seem to equate the breaking of any law with some type of moral wrong or sin. This stems from a moral stranglehold that the church and government have held over the people of this state since its inception. It was breaking the laws of an oppressive government that gained us our independence in the first place.

This is how society evolves. When we stop fighting unjust laws, that’s what leads to fascism and a dictatorial state. Most laws and rulings are valid and are there for a reason but when a ruling is made that goes beyond reason, then action must be taken.

The public has spoken out again and again saying they are against water charges. They have had years of austerity and many simply cannot afford to pay another charge. An elected government enforcing a charge that the electorate is categorically opposed to does not constitute democracy. Waiting to vote for a new government in the next election is not good enough. This government is not representing the people.

In Ireland today we have to stop succumbing to the old stagnant way of thinking.  Bankers like Séan Fitzpatrick walk free and it is tolerated if not accepted because it is the ‘law’. People who have nothing are jailed for breaking an exclusion zone ruling that prevents them from protesting effectively. It is a ludicrously accepted fact that we live in a two tier state when it comes to justice. One law for the privileged and another for everyone else.

Nonsense like the word of a judge is sacrosanct is being conveniently used to maintain the status quo. Justice Paul Gilligan granted the order to have a 20 metre exclusion zone implemented around the installation of water metres. By making this judgement he has basically ruled that people have the right to protest but not to effectively protest. If they can’t disrupt the installation of the meters; what is the point? Five people were jailed for breaking the court order and entering the exclusion zone.  Three of the protesters were jailed for 28 days while two of them were sentenced to 56 days in prison.

Justice Gilligan said the actions of the defendants were designed to “generate and provoke civil disobedience.” The truth is the action of this judge is enabling an elected government to disobey the wishes of its electorate and act as a fascist state . No one wants to see workers installing these meters being threatened or abused but they should not be put in this position in the first place.  In truth the judge, the workers,the protesters or the Gardaí are not the culprits in this scenario; it is the government and Irish water. The judge and the legal system are once again being used to bully the public into submission. The situation has escalated further as two of the men jailed have now gone on hunger strike.

This argument is not about party politics. A line in the sand must be drawn here to put an end to this two tier state. This is not a call for anarchy but a call for reason. Reason must dictate government policy and the implementation of the law in a democratic society. Events need to be contextualised regardless of what petty laws are being broken. People are at the end of their tether and need a break or they will break.

What do you think?

Should an exclusion zone have been put in place?

Should the protesters have been imprisoned for breaching the exclusion zone?