LegalEagleStar

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Posts Tagged ‘Louis Brandeis

#Right2Water , Civil Disobedience and #PeoplePower in Ireland 2015

with 4 comments


Yesterday on Twitter I received the following Tweet ….

What needs to be done to topple the Government?

I replied ….

Mass Civil Disobedience !

As a lawyer, I have been criticised by many, in particular fellow lawyers, regarding the stance I’ve taken with regard to the Right2Water Campaign. This is a Citizen led Movement which has arisen as a result of the Irish Governments attempt to privatize our water, regardless of how hollow the rejection of this claim is, by the Elites who run this country. I have taken to the streets and marched Shoulder to Shoulder with my fellow Citizens and am proud to do so. While many people cannot afford to pay the proposed charges being imposed on us, a lot can. Luckily I am one of those that can. There is a principle at stake here. Austerity measures dictated by the IMF, the European Central Bank and others and imposed on the Irish People in order to pay the gambling debts of the Elites, their Bankers and Speculators are, in my opinion, immoral. Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay are what the banners say. They could read Can Pay, Won’t Pay and they would be as correct. People have said ‘Enough is enough’. The question is, am I correct in advocating a Don’t Pay policy?

I have read a lot about Civil Disobedience. Is it morally, if not legally correct? I came across the following…

I am inclined to agree with Thomas Jefferson,  the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence (1776). Justice, surely has to play a role in our thinking. As lawyers we are trained to use the law to benefit our fellow citizens. When the law is unjust, we try to use the legal system to protect our clients. Our Courts on a regular basis try to mitigate the harshness of the law and find an interpretation which protects the citizen. What about when one political ideology in power attempts to subjugate the citizens to their point of view? We are told that we live in a democracy and the will of the people is demonstrated by the Ballot Box. In 2011 the Irish People Voted for Change. They ousted the Fianna Fail Government and replaced them with the two parties that advocated change, namely Fine Gael and The Irish Labour Party. While in opposition and prior to the General Election, both of these Parties talked the talk but as it turned out, they did not walk the walk and indeed the Irish People were subjected to the same policies that the previous hated Government had implemented. Sadly, even more austerity was heaped on the citizen. The most vulnerable in society, the young, the old, sick and the poor were particularly targeted by the ruthless implementation of austerity. People suffered as a result and indeed are still suffering to this very day. The new government claim that they were given a mandate by the people and are refusing to relinquish power. They say they intend to stay the full course. Is this democracy in action?

Democracy… government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. So in theory that is what we have.

While we’re deemed a Democratic State why are people in Ireland today so discontent? Something is wrong. They are not being listen to. Despite marching on the streets to demonstrate their opposition they are being fobbed off with our Government playing politics. Those in power are, in my opinion, not following an agenda on behalf of the citizens who voted them in. Instead they are following the dictates of the EU and other like-minded institutions whose agenda is somewhat different. Perhaps something is fundamentally wrong ….

While I have quoted from a Justice of the American Supreme Court, I feel that the same is equally relevant in the Irish context. The Irish Government panders to the will of those with great wealth to the detriment of the citizen, thus sadly creating a sub-class in our society, to which the vast majority now belong.

Photograph: Matthew Cooper/PA

It’s to be noted that lawyers have headed protest against injustice in many countries throughout the world. They have led the people. In Ireland today, it appears that we only hit the headlines when huge fees are concerned. This is unfair. I recognise those firms who act for the Elites but the vast majority of the legal profession are of the people and stand up for their rights. Individually, lawyers do have a moral conscience. Unfortunately that is not reflected in the media nor indeed, in my opinion, in the representative bodies who I feel should be questioning the legality of bailing out bondholders and banks and suchlike. True leadership should be shown. It has been left to #Ballyhea and other protest groups to continue the fight against Government Austerity policies which go to bail out the rich at the expense of the poor. In the past the Trade Union Movement lead the citizen in protesting injustice. Sadly today the major Union #SIPTU are so closely associated with the Labour Party that their silence is deafening. Without the likes of Ballyhea, this whole sorry chapter in Irish society would not have a voice of protest.

So, as a lawyer am I advocating breaking the law by supporting a No Pay to Water Charges? Well, you’ll have to be the judge of that. I will continue to support my fellow citizens in their fight against an unjust law. I am proud to be associated with such good people.

Finally, I think it worthwhile watching Matt Damon, a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn and his family, read excerpts from a speech Howard Zinn gave in 1970 as part of a debate on civil disobedience.

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Poster courtesy of Arcturus Blackhorn

LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 6th. January , 2015.

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