Photo credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

It is time to stop pretending that Government cares about crime

There is both an official, and an unspoken, reason for why it is that Enoch Burke is in prison, while people ramming garda cars in Cherry Orchard, and people slashing the faces of their fellow citizens in Dame Street, remain at liberty.

The official reason is that Enoch Burke challenged the authority of the courts, and held himself in contempt, and is therefore paying the price, as he should. The unspoken reason is that Burke committed a crime Ireland’s ruling class care about, while the lads in Cherry Orchard and the young lady on Dame Street did not.

As you read this, the Government is preparing the final touches to its law which will criminalise “hate” speech, and “hate” crimes. And thus, it will shortly become the law of the land that insulting or offending the wrong person, or class of people, is a crime. You do not need to be Mystic Meg to realise that those who commit that particular crime will be more harshly treated by the courts than those who rammed a garda car in Cherry Orchard, or those who decide to resolve drunken disputes with razor blades.

Laws at their most fundamental level are simply statements about who we are as a society. For example, our laws around littering say that we are a society that values our environment and wish to live in a clean country. Laws about animal rights and cruelty say that we wish to be perceived as kind to other creatures. They are little more than expressions of our identity: This is the law, because this is who we are. That is why there was such rejoicing about the results of the referenda on marriage and abortion, though both of those issues affect but a fraction of the population: The results were perceived as saying that we are a kind and tolerant country.

But if that is true, then it is also the case that it says much of us as a country, and a lot about our ruling class, when the laws are not enforced. You do not have to look hard to see the message: The people who rule this country care much more about someone being called a bad name than they do about whole communities living in terror from lawlessness. That is where the legislative time is being spent. That is where Garda resources are directed.

The Minister for Justice is many things, but you could never accuse her of idleness. She has, in her time in office, introduced a range of new criminal offences – almost all of them related to online sexual offences. During her time in office, there have been new offences introduced, for example, protecting Onlyfans models from copyright theft. There was a new law designating some NGOs as “trusted partners” in the fight against sex trafficking. There was a new system of court orders to restrain those accused of stalking. There was a new law to make the responsibilities around sexual consent more “black and white”. Many of these laws have merit to them, of course, but overall, the impression one gets is that we have appointed a Student’s Union’s women’s officer to the office of Minister for Justice. People are getting knifed in the streets, but her eyes are focused almost entirely on fellas not paying for their porn, and whether consent was verbalised at every stage of a one-night stand, and whether little old ladies who think abortion is wrong are holding their rosary beads and their religious pro-life signs too close to hospitals.

This comes back to the point I made above: The laws we have tell us what the Government cares about. And this Government cares more about regulating every aspect of public speech and private sexual behaviour than it does about people stealing cars and ramming them into Gardai.

But there’s more to it than that: These laws are not being made for everyone. They are laws that are being made for a particular class of people. Put simply, this Government objectively cares more about a women’s studies graduate being offended than it does about a woman from the inner city getting slashed. That is, to use the language of our time, privilege in action.

There is no more privileged person in Ireland than the extremely online left-wing progressive feminist whiner: They, and they alone, have the ear of those who rule us. It is their anger that the Government lives in mortal terror of. It is their concerns that Justine McCarthy or Una Mullally or Fintan O’Toole will write scathing columns promoting. Working class anger, by contrast, or rural anger, is written off as white rage, or far right radicalisation. This country is run by, and for, people who think that Brexit and misgendering and “everyday sexism” are bigger problems than drug crime and antisocial behaviour.

And that is why Enoch Burke is in prison, while the Gardai flee from Cherry Orchard like the French at the first sign of a German in a pointy hat. Because Burke’s crime is that he challenges the establishment, while the crimes in Cherry Orchard challenge mere plebians.

There are those amongst my centrist dad friends, to coin a phrase, who think more benignly about all of this, and think that the Government are simply well meaning people who have become too insulated from the real world to realise how big a problem crime has become. That is not true, sadly. Would that it were true.

The problem is simply that they do not care, because it neither affects them, nor challenges their position.

I promise you, if the gurriers in Cherry Orchard decide to switch, tomorrow, from stealing cars and ramming Garda vehicles to instead protesting the impact of immigration on their community, the Government will suddenly care. But for as long as crimes impact the powerless and not the powerful, the caste that runs our country will tolerate them.

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