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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #82 - The Role of the Gardai

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 26 Sep 2004 07:18:32 +0200 (CEST)

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The primary role of the police is to preserve the status quo in society.
In other words, the first task of the police force, of any police force, is
to ensure the rule of the State and the rich elite. In practice this
means priority is given to concerns of State over that of the
population. For example, in Stoneybatter, near Dublin city-centre, on
a number of occasions, the Guards have responded to break-ins over
12 hours after the event. In contrast the Guards were always prompt
in attending to the scene of a bin-truck blockade.

The fact that Guards also do useful work, like investigating genuine
crimes such as rape or doing traffic control, provides them with a
level of cover for the fact that their primary role is to control the
population in the interests of the rich. While it would be foolish to
dismiss the useful work the police do, it is naive to think that it is the
fundamental reason for their existence.
Garda Behaviour

Garda misbehaviour, incompetence and plain subversion of justice
happens all too regularly. When you think about the continuous
nature of the scandals, you are forced to conclude there is something
rotten about the police. Take just a few of the more well-known
examples: The Guards investigating the savage murder of two elderly
women in Grangegorman framed Dean Lyons, a totally innocent
man. They simply forced a confession out of a vulnerable person. It
isn't the only case of Gardai faking confessions and setting people up,
though perhaps it is the most blatant and tragic - another couple died
before the real killer was caught and Dean Lyons suffered under the
shame and subsequently died prematurely.

The Gardai in Donegal tried to frame Frank McBearty for murder.
Again, they tried to fake a confession and they also severely harassed
the man's family by issuing over 200 summonses against family
members. It turns out that Gardai there were also faking the discovery
of explosives in order to gain credit from their superiors for disrupting
the IRA.

The roll call of shame has a long meandering history; from the
heavy-gang antics of the 1970s, where policemen helped suspects
talk by giving them a good heavy beating, to the Kerry Babies case of
the 1980s to the shooting of John Carthy in Abbeylara a couple of
years ago.

The Gardai's actual competence as a police force that protects the
community is put in perspective when you consider the almost total
lack of prosecutions against serial child-abusers, for example in
institutions run by religious, in Irish society until the 1990s. It is
inconceivable that the Garda didn't know what was going on in wider
Irish society in the fifties and sixties, yet they singularly failed to
intervene to protect the most vulnerable.
Routine Lies

The routine lies that Guards peddle in the District Court to gain
convictions are so common as to be barely worth remarking upon.
Rarely acknowledged too are the regular beatings meted out to
working class youths. The Department of Justice pays out over
E1,000,000 annually in compensation for unlawful arrest, assault and
harassment. And that figure represents the tiny minority who have
bothered to make complaints that were successful. Many more are
intimidated out of doing so; many never bother making a complaint at

Very recently we have witnessed the wholesale militarisation of
Dublin, with over 4,000 Guards, many dressed in storm-trooper like
gear and water-cannon, protecting the European elite. The same
absurd level of policing was readily available for George Bush when
he graced us with his presence. The sheer level of resources poured
into these events illustrate the priorities of the State and the police:
the elites take precedence, dealing with joy-riders, drug-dealing and
assault is very much a secondary consideration
The Good & the Bad

So there are problems with the Police Force. What else can one
expect with a large organisation of over 10,000 members? But the
problems with the police force are systemic and arise because it is a
police force rather than from the proverbial bad apples. If it were the
latter the problems could be rectified, but of course they never are.

In fact it is often mentioned, rightly, that Gardai join the force with
the honourable motive of assisting society. Also, many individual
Gardai sympathise with the aims of, say, anti-war activists or dislike
the bin-tax or many other measures it is their job to enforce.
However, it isn't the individual that is the problem, but the institution
of the police force itself and its manipulation of the individuals it
controls. The institution is a bureaucratic machine which implements
the wishes of those in control, i.e. the rich, and the lower echelons
follow their orders. The system encourages individual Guards to
identify their interests with that of the State and status quo. The
individuals in the bureaucracy 'switch off' a part of their individuality
when doing their job so that a Guard who is personally anti-war can
find herself arresting anti-war activists for actions she probably thinks
are justified!
Whose Streets? Our Streets!

The police force is in fact the core function and essence of any State.
That is why priority is given to political policing, even at a mundane
level. The recent Mayday events in Dublin organised by the Dublin
Grassroots Network, were hardly a serious threat to the State.
Nevertheless activists were routinely stopped and questioned for the
subversive act of leafleting working class neighbourhoods.

The political nature of the police and their function is the reason why
they dislike Reclaim the Streets and anarchist tainted events such as
the Mayday weekend. We are reclaiming space that the State insists
on controlling. An unauthorised RTS or occupation of Fitzwilliam
Square is in effect saying to the State: "we will decide for ourselves
where to go, we don't need your permission". Such actions also have
a wider resonance, a symbolic message of people going out and doing
things for themselves; of refusing to obey orders; of questioning the
rights and privileges of the rich and the State to control our actions.

And that is why the police often try to have a heavy police presence at
our events; all that fluorescent yellow is an attempt to symbolise that
they are in control of the streets.
Outside of Popular Control

Anarchists refuse to acknowledge the right of the State to decide what
is legitimate and what is not. As mentioned above, the police force is
the quintessential face of the State. As such it must be beyond
effective community control. If it weren't, the ruling class would find
that they no longer had a reliable force to, say, break up pickets of
striking workers and suppress opposition. For example, when they
were needed last autumn, the police were there at bin-tax pickets
getting names for the courts.

People mightn't remain indoctrinated in the lore of capitalism forever,
and at the first sign of the throwing off of their 'voluntary submission'
and dissent, it is necessary for the capitalist class to have a force
capable of containing it.

Talk of the Gardai being unarmed is basically false. They are a police
force, not a police request service. If you don't do what they want they
will force their will upon you. They and their colleagues in the army,
are the only organisation in the country permitted to use force. And
they have easy access to firearms if needs be. The fact that they are
not an everyday sight is indicative of the ideological success of
capitalism rather than a benign policy of the State.

Anarchists want to minimise the use of force in human relations. The
basic anarchist thesis is that it is only legitimate in self-defence and
must never be under the control of a minority. For that effectively
grants power to the minority, who will, as everybody with power does,
use it primarily for their own ends and with a view to controlling
others. But it is possible to live without recourse to controlling elites
and their organised coercion. Anarchists have confidence that people
can run their own affairs, particularly in a libertarian socialist society
where society is structured to facilitate freedom and justice.

by Dec McCarthy

This article was first posted to indymedia.ie. You can read the
discussion it generated at

see also

* Crime, prison and punishment : An anarchist view
This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html for you
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