Monday, January 10, 2011

The 29th Amendment to the Constitution

I'm rather fond of our Constitution. It's not perfect by any means but it's robust, durable and has earned the respect of successive generations of Irish citizens since it was enacted in 1937. It even managed to be a monarchical constitution for 11 years and a republican one thereafter, without an iota of change in the text itself. (Yes, it is very odd that Eamon De Valera wrote a constitution for a monarchy while the Blueshirts used it to throw the King aside in favour of a Republic!)

It is also a very sensible document or very reasonable, if you prefer. The common inheritance of the Anglosphere is a reflexive acceptance of the principles of Common Law. Thus in 1937 a new republican(ish) Constitution didn't mean that we dropped trial by jury or the presumption of innocence; Habeas Corpus was, if anything, greatly strengthened by the personal rights provisions of Bunreacht na hÉireann.

Now, by dint of a legislative proposal as stupid as it is malicious, this long tradition of constitutional equity is in danger of being thrown overboard. The Green Party (which seems to be composed of knaves and bigots in equal measure) and as if they haven't done enough damage already, now propose to punish someone (or perhaps just anyone they can get their hands on) for acts which were lawful at the time they were done. Think about this for a minute: suppose that I campaign for a law to ban fruit gums. The pro-fruit gums lobby then succeed in prohibiting "anti-fruit gum activism". They then seek to punish me for having broken the law, even though there was no such law at the time I performed those acts. This way lies simple tyranny.

Aside from this general consideration, there is the utterly ridiculous notion of "economic treason". Treason is strictly circumscribed in Irish law; this is specifically to allow for the greatest freedom of political action excluding only armed violent action against the State from legal protection. This new and ill-thought-out idea is, I hope, just a ploy to attract favourable media comment or the like. As a provision of the criminal law, the kind that gets people arrested and imprisoned, it is risible. On the positive side, the Greens are about to bid goodbye to the Government benches for a generation or more. Deputy Sargent, Minister Gormley, here's your coat, what's your hurry?

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