13 October 2000 Edition
Combat 18 `honeytrap'
Writing about the funeral of Loyalist Stephen McKeag, Laura Friel refers to a wreath presented by the British nazi group Combat 18. (AP/RN, 5 October, `Loyalist Fascism Exposes Brits') This again highlights the links between loyalism and fascism, but we would like to add some further points. The article goes on to comment on how the British State used loyalist paramilitaries as an ``operational arm'' and ``the sectarian pathology at the heart of loyalism was recruited, organised, armed and deployed to meet a British agenda.'' In many ways this also describes the relationship between Combat 18 and the British State. Set up as a `honeytrap' by British Intelligence in 1992/93, its main purpose was to examine, and manipulate, links between British fascists and Ulster loyalists. It is also very likely that it was intended to draw AFA into a prolonged street war that would divert militant anti-fascists away from challenging the electoral progress of the British National Party and allow the State to present C18 and AFA as flip sides of the same (violent) coin which should be dealt with accordingly by the forces of `law and order'.
While AFA sees a similarity in how the British State uses loyalists and C18 to further their own agenda, we would question the description of C18 as a ``neo-nazi paramilitary group with a history of racist attacks on Britain's Asian and West Indian communities.'' There is no evidence of this; as early as 1993 it was described as a ``phoney war'' by AFA, but the image was created by those who had an interest in promoting the threat of extreme fascist violence so that the State could demand the introduction of further repressive legislation and be seen as the only people capable of preventing all-out `race war'; and at the same time removing the need for an independent anti-fascist movement.
Yours against fascism,
BM 1734, London, WC1N 3XX
The comments by Chief Justice Keane on the This Week radio programme were an honest and open admission by our top judge of the inadequacy of the present judicial system. He freely acknowledges the great concern that has naturally arisen, both among his peers in the judiciary and among the general public.
He states that there is a ``compelling case'' for ``some sort of body'' to provide for remedies in cases of judicial misconduct.
Essentially, the Chief Justice is heralding the need for a change management program within the judicial system and his initiation of the debate is welcome. However he seems to propose tinkering with the system when a second order transformational change is what this archaic process requires. In addressing the serious problem he raises, Justice Keane might consider Einstein's observation that ``you cannot solve a problem with the thinking which created it''.
I suggest three aspects where chief Justice Keane is mistaken in his analysis.
His conclusion that the ``reputation of the judiciary stands very high'' is unsustainable since there is no valid feedback system from the end users of the judicial process. For example, Family Law makes up some 20% of civil law cases in Ireland. Family Law is held in camera with no one allowed to comment on, or discuss, the behaviour or standards of judicial practice.
Having fielded thousands of calls on the confidential helpline for Parental Equality over the last eight years, I can report a substantial level of dissatisfaction with the quality of judicial service delivery, from end users who have no independent, reliable, structured process for lodging and evaluating their complaints. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Judge Keane is in favour of the judiciary policing itself, stating ``there is a very strong wish in the judiciary that as other professions regulate themselves, the judiciary should be responsible for themselves''.
Self-regulation among other professions is already a source of disquiet among members of the public. However, there is the fundamental protection of recourse to the courts for a complainant who is unhappy with the lack of due process of a self-regulatory body. Unaccountable self-regulation is for deities, not for humans. By his own recognition of ``human nature'', Judge Keane acknowledges honestly that there are judges who behave badly on the bench from time to time . The very concept of judges judging themselves flies in the face of the timeless tenet of Natural Justice ``Nemo judex in causa sua'' (that one cannot be judge in one's own case). The dilemmas and anxieties mentioned by the judge of potential threats to judicial independence are an avoidance of grappling with complexity. A more open consideration of concepts such as servant leadership and circular hierarchy might be more productive in finding ways forward.
Justice Keane said that ``there are serious issues to be confronted'' about ``lay participation in this process'' and he seems to infer that the judiciary should have the say in regulating lay participation. The procedures and rules for operating the courts are determined by rules committees, whose very existence are known only to very few and are therefore inaccessible to the public. These committees are comprised of judges, members of the legal profession and court staff. There is presently no voice on these committees for the lay litigant or members of the public (9% of family law cases involve lay litigants). The law belongs to the citizens of Ireland. The judicial system derives its legitimacy solely from the will of the people, the same people who are the customers, the tax paying end users of this public service. Ireland is now a relatively mature democracy with a vibrant, educated population who expect quality from their services and who, as was manifestly demonstrated in the recent O'Flaherty debacle, reject cronyism and slapstick government. The present judicial process needs reframing, to face the customer, as all other public services are doing. Lay litigants are a necessary and crucial partner in the design forum for producing a judicial system that is congruent with the needs and core values of our citizens.
In summary, good law makes good sense, bad law makes nonsense.
Liam Ó Gógáin
Hunger Strike Appeal
The Hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981 are an important period of our history. To mark the 20th anniversary, Sinn Féin will host a series of exhibitions.
We are looking for the loan of exhibits to illustrate all of this. We know that people will have photos, letters or other items from the Hunger Strikes and will be very reluctant to part with them. We understand only too well, but we would ask that you allow copies to be made of photographs etc. We are willing to go to any extremes to guarantee the safe keeping and return of any such items. It is vital that these immensely significant and traumatic times are never forgotten by anyone and that the youth of today can see how the Hunger Strikes came about.
We would appeal especially to all ex prisoners with items from around this period to get in touch. They know only too well the importance of keeping alive the memory of our comrades who gave their lives on hunger strike.
Anyone with any material whatsoever contact.
Sean Moore Mairead Keane
51-53 Falls Road 44 Parnell Square
BT12 4PD Tele 003531 8726100
Tele 02890 223010 Fax 003531 8783595
Fax 02890 223001