(Reading time: mins.)
While the Gardaí face accusations of treating far-Right violence too lightly, the State plans to increase the maximum sentence for assault on members of the force to 12 years in jail, nearly double the current maximum of seven years.1
Minister for Justice Simon Harris was seeking approval today for the increase as amendments to the Criminal Justice (Miscelaneous Provisions) Bill which has passed all stages in the Irish Parliament and is now going through the Seanad.
The increase in maximum sentence lumps emergency services such as paramedics and firefighters with State repressive forces of police, prison officers and armed forces.
This is a disguising measure since forces of repression are not the same as those of emergency services, even if in the event of a disaster all may be employed together. The State expects increased resistance from working people and therefore feels a need for increased repression.
According to some media reports there have been complaints that the Gardaí have been failing to respond adequately to crimes committed by fascists and other far-Rightists, including threatening behaviour and arson.2
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, former British colonial police (PSNI) Assistant Commissioner3 responded that getting tough with the far-Right would be playing into their hands and that the Garda response is measured appropriately.
One must wonder how permitting threats of violence, acts of assault and arson against refugees and their supporters can be considered appropriately measured from any viewpoint other than that of the perpetrators.
Much harder Garda responses have been seen through the years to striking workers, water-meter and housing protesters, Irish Republican events and – yes – antifascist counter-protests against fascists and other far-Rightists.
Not giving the fascists the confrontation they’re allegedly looking for might disappoint some of them but on the other hand many will be encouraged and get to feel that they can do more or less what they like without repercussions from the Gardaí.
According to Saturday’s Irish Times, some of the criticism of Garda tolerance of far-Right crimes comes from confidential sources within the force itself.
The discourse that policing these protests is ‘complex’ is a distraction from the fact that vulnerable people who are harming no-one are entitled to live without fear of violence to their person or to their meagre belongings, about which there is nothing ‘complex’ at all.
Having to live on the street due to the failings of the State is bad enough without being subjected to additional threats.
On a number of occasions Gardaí have attacked and threatened antifascists confronting the far-Right, revealing where the general sympathies of the State lie, despite condemnations of the far-Right by Government Ministers, politicians and the Garda Commissioner.
Historically, capitalism has turned to fascism to suppress the resistance of the working class to being made to pay for crises in the system. And fascists have often enough been found within the police force themselves.
Indeed, in Ireland it was the ex-Commissioner of the police, Eoin O’Duffy, who led the fascist Blueshirts, while the religous sectarian, racist and murderous nature of the colonial police in the Six Counties is a long established fact.
The police are the first physical force agency of the State and the armed forces its second. Increasing the penalty for assaults on these means the State is anticipating an increase of assault charges in days to come, quite probably as people defend themselves from police attack.
In fact, it is well known that if the police assault people, they regularly charge their victims with assault, so that the police can explain the injuries of their victims as inflicted in ‘self-defence’ or in measures taken against a person ‘resisting arrest’.
1Sentences for assaults on gardaí to rise, Irish Times, 23 May 2023.
3Far right ‘not growing’ says Garda Commissioner, Conor Lally, Irish Times 23 May 2023.
https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2023/05/23/maximum-sentence-for-assaulting-gardai-to-increase-under-plans-due-before-cabinet/#:~:text=The%20maximum%20sentence%20for%20assaulting,Minister%20for%20Justice%20Simon%20Harris. Irish Times, 23 May 2023.
https://www.irishtimes.com/crime-law/2023/05/20/why-are-gardai-so-passive-when-policing-the-far-right/?, Conor Lally, Irish Times, 20 May 2023.