Joan Burton treating the whole population like criminals
A alarming statement was made on radio this morning as reported in today’s Independentby by Labour’s Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection.
She intends to directly employ 20 members of the Gardai to set up checkpoints and road blocks around the country in housing estates and at airports in an alleged attempt to catch benefit fraudsters who are also working.
Now we all want fraud eliminated, but we have multinationals pay 1% tax here and bankers going free with millions in their pockets, and it seems that the office of corporate enforcement is powerless to stop banking and corporate fraud. Yet we are not supposed to get excited about this high level high value welfare fraud and our attention is diverted to people living on pennies at the end of the week.
Of course as with any system some level of fraud exists, the Oireachtas being case in point, bu at no stage has Joan ever offered proof of her claims that such massive levels of fraud really exist in the welfare system. In the words of our friends at Anglo, she seems to have “pulled it out of her a**e”.
According to Joan the reason our country is floundering is because of an apparent avalanche of benefit fraud. We have been hearing this mantra for a long time now and frankly it just seems to be a diversionary message to stop people talking about the continued record levels of unemployment, lack of properly paid work, and mass emigration of our best and brightest. It also diverts from the continued ranks of the untouchables in the high offices of society and the almost tax exempt international business sector.
What galls most people is that this government continuously targets the people struggling to keep their heads above water to blame for our country’s woes. Always playing the divide and conquer trick. Always diverting attention away from the real culprits.
It is baffling that Joan would even suggest such a move now when the Gardai are under resourced even to carry out basic police work. In fact Gardai are leaving in droves, for instance one third of all applicants to the police force in Australia and New Zealand are coming from Ireland. Indeed there are plenty of Gardai who are forced into double jobbing on the black market because they themselves are unable to make ends meet. Are they going to arrest these guys too?
No. What is most alarming about this is how it changes society. As sovereign men and women of Eire, as our constitution guarantees, we are entitled to go about our business unmolested and without infringement. It is a basic human right that wars have been fought all over the world to protect.
To use possible welfare fraud by a handful of people as an excuse to road block and spot check the entire population is an assault on freedom. It is something that happened in Europe in the 1930s that we swore would never happen again. Being asked for your papers will not fly in Ireland. Our history will not allow it to ever become acceptable again. This increasingly intrusive policing was called ‘the rise of fascism’ back then, and dressing it up in different government spin will not change that reality now.
Furthermore nobody is obliged to give details without just cause or suspicion of a crime having been committed, and to be stopped and asked to do so is unconstitutional. The Gardai swear an oath to uphold our constitutional protections, not to the government. Hence, where does Joan believe she gets the authority to implement this idea, and to order our Gardai to act outside of their office?
The Department of Social protection have their own teams of investigators to stop welfare fraud. They are able to investigate an individual or a company and find evidence of fraud. They can bring their own evidenced cases to court. If they want to make inroads into what they suspect ‘might’ be a problem in the system then perhaps they should employ a team of 20 new welfare investigators to gather evidence on a case by case basis?
In the event they find compelling evidence of corporations employing people “off the books” who are claiming welfare then the Gardai are within their remit to assist the welfare inspectors in that individual case. Not many people would take issue with this, and neither do we. When things are done by the book and the presumption of innocence is respected then nobody can have any complaints.
However, to make potential criminals out of everyone who works or travels in this country is outrageous and Joan Burton should think again before overstepping her authority and asking the Gardai to act unconstitutionally. We trust the Gardai will honour their constitutional and lawful guiding principles of justice for all, especially when faced with a public who will not take kindly their freedoms being infringed.