‘The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance’

April 26, 2007 at 9:39 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The Criminal Justice Bill has the potential to seriously undermine civil liberties in Ireland. While strong new powers taken by the State may be intended to address criminal activity, those powers in fact face all citizens not just criminals. The recourse to mandatory sentencing, the erosion of the right to silence and the use of seven-day detention further orientate the balance of our criminal justice system away from the accused citizen towards the Gardai and State.

Fundamental to our system of law has been the principle that all are innocent until proven guilty. This principle is designed to protect the weak and vulnerable from unjust accusation and undue pressure. I therefore call on Seanad Eireann to fulfill its role as an independent House of the Oireachtas by rejecting this measure and affirming our long-established principles of criminal justice. The role of the Seanad is to reflectively review legislation. This is best achieved in a non-party political manner. The Seanad should act as a restraint on the Dail by examining Bills outside the heat of party-political controversy. There is now a clear opportunity for the Seanad to exercise its responsibility, re-affirm its relevance and amend this Bill. 

Finally, the revelation that the Gardai requested over 10,000 phone records last year and that an unspecified number were also requested by the Army must raise serious concerns. Details regarding the extraordinary scale of Garda requests have not been made available. The old maxim ‘the price of liberty is eternal vigilance’ has never been more valid.   

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