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Fine Gael. Soft on crime; soft on the causes of crime. November 26, 2006

Posted by franklittle in Uncategorized.

The issue of law & order is an unusual policy area. For the most part, the Irish people like to see policies that work. People want more nurses and more A&E beds because they can see with their own two eyes that they’re needed. Common sense tells you that having
less hospital beds today than 20 years ago, even with the advancements in medicene, is ludicrous. People want more money for schools because they send their children off to pre-fabs. A teacher in a Gaelscoil in Cabra was on Radio na Gaeltachta last week saying that in all but one of his 20 years teaching since 1986 he had taught in pre-fabs. More money in capital school buildings, better schools, healthier children, happier staff. Logic.

But logic goes out the window when the issue of crime is contemplated. Here, academics, experts, law enforcement officers, the prison service, social welfare analysts and the like can, broadly speaking, agree on what needs to be done. And politicians, broadly
speaking, take one look at those proposals and run screaming because the politicians know something the ivory tower academics don’t know. There are no votes in dealing with crime in Ireland. There are no votes in ‘law & order’ in Ireland. Only votes in the perception of dealing with crime, in projecting the image of being the law & order party.

It is in this light that serendipity brought together in the last fortnight two of the stupidest policy initiatives proposed since the last election, and from the sameparty, on roughly the same issue.

First we had Billy Timmins. For those of you who hve never heard of him, and outside of political nerds that is all of you, he is Fine Gael’s spokesperson on Defence. The man charged with the onerous task of marking Willie O’Dea. He proposed setting up boot camps for young offenders run by the Defence Forces in order to teach them the error of their ways.

Never mind that this intiative was tried by the British a few years back and was a catastrophic failure. Never mind that in the US it has been increasingly discredited because of the high rates of re-offending and abuse of prisoners. Never mind that Labour and the Greens would never allow such a policy to be implemented. Never mind what it says about our Defence Forces that Timmins thinks this is the best use for them.

It SOUNDS good. It doesn’t matter whether it works or not because we know it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if it’s a waste of the people’s money. It allows Fine Gael to pose tough on crime. And that’s the important thing.

Following Timmins, in a suggestion that has brought guffaws wherever I have repeated it, was a proposal from Jim O’Keefe that bins could be placed in Churches, community centres and public places. Here, passers-by could dispose of their illegaly held firearms. Imagine a set of recycling bins with local scumbags wandering by to dispose of a revolver or a pistol, hell why not an assault rifle. In fact, if only Fine Gael could have come up with this idea before the IRA decommissioned, it would have solved all our problems. P O’Neill
could have just driven the van up to his local community centre and off-loaded 450 AK47s.

Both of these Fine Gael TDs can be given a fool’s pardon. Should Fine Gael get elected to government for the first time in over two decades, it is unlikely either of them would make it into the Cabinet.

But it is symptomatic of the desperate flailing about of a party that has consistently built itself on two key foundation stones; law & order and anti-republicanism. Fine Gael is badly outflanked by the PDs on both issues. McDowell has looked across to Britain and intends bringing us Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). Another failed Blairite proposal. Mandatory sentences are also on the cards. Neither of these work. Both have been demonstrably shown to fail. But this is not important. Both are possible vote winners.

Rehabilitation, education of prisoners, tackling socio-economic disadvantage, more Gardaí on the street instead of filling out forms, a properly resources probation & welfare service. These work. We know they work. Fine Gael and the PDs know they work. But they prefer the easy option. They prefer to be soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime, because being hard isn’t as popular.

Lastly, Gay Mitchell’s decision not to contest Dublin South-Central. No clearer signal could be sent of the growing acceptance among people in Fine Gael that they are not going to be in power in August 2007.


1. WorldbyStorm - November 27, 2006

There is a distinct problem for FG going up against McDowell, and I agree with you the examples given are fatuous ideas. But I have a sneaking sympathy with them in so far as they have to do something, anything.

Just, perhaps not this sort of thing.

Entirely agree with you re: Gay Mitchell. Away from the spin it’s interesting how deflated some FG people are by it. Not a good omen for that party.


2. Dan Sullivan - November 28, 2006

The weapons amnesty was a diaster, and it is incorrect to suggest that O’Keeffe was impying that the bins for disposal of weapons would be some open top plastic tub like at some bring and buy sale.

I ask you this how are weapons amnesties operated in other countries? Do they typically expect the person holding the weapon to go the local cop shop and sign their name and address for the weapon? Of course not if the intent is to get weapons off the streets. And nor do they usually not test them for ballistics as some other suggested O’Keeffe was intending. He made a straightforward suggestion that the places for collecting weapons in an amnesty should have been wider and more conducive to collecting weapons than was the case. And to be honest most churches are deserted during the day, you could leave a tank at some of them and it could be days before anyone notices.


3. simon - November 29, 2006

I ask you this how are weapons amnesties operated in other countries? they don’t


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