Put the latest statement from Helen McEntee over the weekend into the “come on now, she’s not going to get away with this one” pile.
But of course, she is. Who’s going to criticise this, aside from cranks like me?
The electronic tagging of criminals while out on temporary release from prison is not being used for financial reasons, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has admitted.
The Department of Justice has confirmed that electronic tagging is not currently being used as an alternative to keeping offenders in prison.
I struggle to think of any other politician in Irish history who has gotten away so blatantly with saying one thing and doing the opposite. This is a Minister, remember, whose signature policy is protecting women and girls from the depravity of male sexual violence. Every time she calls a new press conference on that subject, our scribes dutifully attend, and nod, because everybody knows that this is, indeed, the great cause of our time. And one can’t ruin a moment of moral preaching to the nation with awkward questions about what is being done to solve the problem. That would be almost indecent.
It’s important to remember here that releasing prisoners on license is not a thing we do with electronic tagging as an optional add-on: The tagging is fundamental to the idea – these people are tagged because they might be dangerous, and the tagging deters them from committing crimes. That’s the deal we make with them: You get out, but we keep an eye on you, to make sure the public is safe from your worst instincts. But apparently it costs too much. Meanwhile, funding for the National Women’s Council increases every year – sourced, by the way, from the Department of Justice. NGOs first; public safety an optional add on. That’s the policy.
In my other piece this morning, I wrote that the problem with Irish culture and politics is that “who we are” is a vastly more important question for our cultural elites than “what we do”. This is exhibit A of that. It is observably and obviously more important to the Minister for Justice – and indeed, most of the civil servants in her department – that Ireland has a progressive justice policy than it is that Ireland has an effective justice policy. In that cause, it is vastly more important to fund progressive NGOs and initiatives, like educating boys in school about consent, than it is to tag prisoners on temporary release. In fact, there’s no competition: After all, tagging prisoners on early release is something that the public might expect. If they do it, the Government gets no credit for it. Nobody is going to write a piece saying “well done to the Government for doing something that is basic sense”.
By contrast, all of the progressive stuff is new. You can get three or four good Irish Times op-eds out of sending womens’ studies graduates into schools to tell young boys all about toxic masculinity. And what’s more, it is a policy that cannot, by definition, fail: If the number of rapes goes down in years to come, then hurrah, men have finally been fixed. If it goes up, or stays the same, then what other conclusion can be drawn other than that men are irredeemable, despite the best efforts of our noble leaders to fix them. Time for more funding for NGOs, to educate the neanderthal teenagers.
The Minister for Justice’s thinking – or, to be more accurate, the thinking which the Minister for Justice has other people do for her – is basically that crime is a social problem, not an individual problem. There is no criminal that cannot be prevented from becoming a criminal, in this world view, with the correct early intervention. Early intervention which tells them, in the most unoffensive and inclusive possible way, that crime is bad. There is also a view that crime – which has never been eradicated in any society in human history – is really a form of punishment for our collective sins: “But of course these people are going to be criminals, look at what we have done to them.”
This bleeds through the whole system: It explains lax sentencing. It explains early release. It explains the reluctance to even talk about crime, and the condemnation for the politician who says “druggies” instead of “victims of addiction”. The criminals in Ireland are not our oppressors, but our victims. That’s how the department of justice and the academic left sees it, even if they do not use those precise words.
And so, tagging criminals out on release just isn’t a worthwhile use of funds. Not when those funds could be expended fixing the real criminal: Irish society as a whole. They can’t stop you from being a victim of crime, but they genuinely think they can stop your kid becoming a criminal, if they just teach him enough about tolerance.
It is nonsense. But this rot is so deep in the Irish elite – by which I mean the four institutions of politics, civil service, academia, and the media – that I do not know how it will ever be extracted. Perhaps Helen McEntee, in a different environment, would be a different politician. Perhaps weakness is her only problem. Because I promise you, there are very few civil servants in the department of Justice urging her to take a different course.
As is the case right across Government. We’re governed by Sir Humphrey, all right. But Sir Humphrey with a he/him badge.