The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Fantasy Island - jail for Irish cops whose leaks spoil the fantasy

Tony Blair isn't a great fan of the hand of history these days: it always seems to be clutching so vital or exquisitely sensitive part of his distinctly unhealthy body [1].

With recent defeat in elections for David Trimble, and now the Provisional IRA (PIRA to the cognoscenti) accused of attempted kidnapping, the elaborate hoax - the technical term constructive ambiguity - which was the much vaunted Northern Ireland peace process is fast coming to resemble Miss Havisham's back-parlour.

And the Celtic Tiger down South is grumpy: the new Garda Síochána Bill [2] (in clause 55 [3]) forbids Gardai [4] to disclose information
if the person knows the disclosure of that information is likely to have a harmful effect.

And disclosure is deemed to have a harmful effect if, amongst other things, it
(k) affects adversely the relations of the Government with any political party, group or institution in Northern Ireland or the Government’s ability to promote agreement, advance the peace process or engage in negotiations with regard to Northern Ireland.

A modest five years imprisonment is the maximum penalty. (From memory, Katherine Gun - piece earlier today - only faces two years.)

Presumably - I see no reason why not - any journalist who receives such information would be liable as an accessory or co-conspirator. Would the new super-duper, ask-no-questions European arrest warrant be available if, for example, a Northern Ireland journalist received a tip-off from a Garda officer infringing this legislation?

  1. Blair's heart troubles kept secret.

  2. Text here (PDF). The title in Irish is Bille an Gharda Síochána. My surmise is that the spelling is correct - but that an (whatever that means) causes mutation of the following consonant.

    Long ago, I several times tried to learn Welsh - whose morphology is nowhere near as complicated as Irish, but which is afflicted with the same mutation mania. I seem to remember seeing a list of no fewer than sixty different circumstances in which one kind mutation was obligatory. The effect on meaning is nil.

    Appropriate indeed for a language used primarily as a tool for political action, not communication. As is Irish, of course. (Entry to a new New Statesman misleading advice to foreigners competition: Try ordering a McDonalds or giving directions to a taxi-driver in Dublin in Irish...)

  3. In the UK parliament, the sections of legislation yet to be enacted (ie, bills) are called clauses. It's probably the same in Ireland.

  4. The Irish plural is used in English. (More colloquially, the police are called Gards.) Memories of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC RIP) oblige.

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