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Obmuloc: an Irish detective story

Comment on the resignation of the Garda Commissioner

13 September 2017

With her resignation the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan reached the limits of a unique Irish investigative technique.  This technique, ”Obmuloc,” is the reverse of the technique used in the fictional detective series Colombo.  There we are aware from the opening scene of the identity of the murderer and the mechanism of the crime and the story concerns the detection process.

In Ireland there is a process of endless committees and investigations, but these never lead to a perpetrator or even full admission of a crime.  Even in the face of overwhelming evidence the rule of omerta prevails. In the case of the guards the series of questions reached a crescendo.  By her resignation the Commissioner has removed any hope that these questions will be ever be answered.

The sample questions include:

Who hacked the Garda Ombudsman’s office?

Who witch hunted and defamed whistle-blowers?

How did sums of money disappear from the account of the Garda training college?

How did the Garda manage to log almost 1.5 million breath tests and convict drivers on the basis of fake tests?

Other stories of frame-ups and serious crimes committed by the guards themselves abound.

O’Sullivan resigned because, after months of questions, she was unable to offer any explanation.  Now the government will sigh and confess that there is no explanation because there is no one to answer the questions.

The questions could not be answered because there was only one possible answer. The Garda are totally corrupt, root and branch, at every level. The impunity and criminality that you find in all police forces finds a unique expression in the Irish system. There is no need for further investigation because everyone knows that the police are corrupt.  The question is what is to be done about it?

Irish capitalism has a ready answer. There will be more committees and a reform process, already in train, will be advanced and welcomed by the media and by the great and the good. That reform process will be utterly ineffective because the corruption of Irish society is everywhere. Even though O’Sullivan, the second Commissioner in a row to resign because of scandal, has been mired in the litany of charges against the Garda for many months, even though she has been unable to offer any credible explanation, the Fine Gael party in government offered her a full vote of confidence. The group of independents in government have kept quiet. Fianna Fail, who operate a “confidence and supply” deal to keep the minority government afloat, eventually said that they thought she should go, but it never became an issue in their continuing support for government. The Dail, the political parties, the trade union leadership, the press – even state institutions and charities – all are run through a process of cronyism and impunity. Major thefts of public assets by leading CEOs occur in plain view without any response.

The stench of corruption is built into the nature of Irish capitalism. It acts as a client for transnational companies and the imperialist powers, raking off its own cut of the exploitation of Irish workers. This is the class that agreed that the Irish working class, 1% of the European population, should pay 46% of the European banking debt. It is they who collaborated with Apple in a €13 billion tax scam and who still collaborate with the company to resist the findings of the European courts.

There are immediate steps that could be taken in our own defence. We should campaign to get all the senior management team expelled from the police. This should above all be a street campaign. The growing parliamentary reformism of the Irish left make them extremely vulnerable to the shell game that the government will now play, called “plus ca change, plus ca meme chose” (all change, all the same). Resolutions and parliamentary bills must play very much a second fiddle.

Things are set to get very much worse. One element of corruption was government attempts to criminalise protests (the Jobstown water charge protests). The trail collapsed when 50 Garda were called to give evidence and the vast majority were shown to be perjurers by video evidence posted on social media. The state’s response was to propose restrictions on social media and to suggest that further restrictions on jury trials be brought in (Ireland already has a non-jury system).  The government then drove a coach and horses through public sector pay restrictions to give the Garda a major pay hike.

The programme of austerity, enforced by deals with the trade union bureaucracy, is reaching the end of its shelf life, eroded by a two-tier pay structure cutting away at public sector pay and by an out of control housing crisis. The government are buying police loyalty and covering for their crimes in the expectation that they will have to use force to suppress protest. Activists should be uniting to set up a worker’s defence force, a citizen army to protect the workers movement. Even at the level of propaganda, watching the Garda and cataloguing their crimes, it would play an immensely valuable role in awaking the movement for the coming battles.

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