In the spring of this year more then five people were held in jail for periods because they had protested against the US military using Shannon airport to refuel en route to the Iraq war. Opinion polls at the time showed the vast majority of people opposed this war and this refuelling.
Charles Haughey, Ray Burke and Michael Lowry never saw the inside of a prison cell. These were all politicians who specialised in taking cash from their rich friends, salting millions away at the expense of the working class. On the other hand, Liam Lawlor eventually saw the inside of Mountjoy but only after months of defying the High Court, and then one week at a time.. Unlike the bin tax protesters he was allowed to bring his mobile phone and his laptop with him,
In 1989 Dermot Desmond signed a letter from NCB to Pernod Ricard justifying the two million fees he was charging them because "We orchestrated entirely the successful campaign to get a positive tax opinion from the Revenue Commissioners which involved using personal contacts at the highest level, including the Minister for Finance and the Secretaries of the Department of the Taoiseach and Department of Industry and Commerce".
A more farcical example was revealed at the Mahon tribunal the very week the High Court was busy jailing bin tax protesters. Liam Lawlor was given 40 grand by a builder to get the postal area of a new development changed from Clondalken to Lucan. Then to rub the point home it was revealed that Judge Mahon himself had forgotten to declare some of his earnings to the revenue.
Except for Lawlor nobody spent a day in jail as a result of any of the above. Nor have Fianna Fail TD's GV Wright or Michael Collins. A few years back John Lonergan, the governor of Dublin's Mountjoy prison, admitted that 50% of the prison population come from a few deprived areas of Dublin. He didn't reveal how many were millionaires, but 0 would be a safe bet.
This is not so much a case of one law for the rich - one law for the poor, it's more a case of some laws only being applied to the poor. The corrupt politicians, Judges and their friends in big business ride roughshod over the law and fleece the country for millions and get away with it. The law exists primarly to protect the interests of the rich, so only the poor can be punished for breaking the laws if they have the temerity to stand up against injustice.
It's hard to draw any other conclusion but that the entire legal system from Gardai to High Court exists to protect the interests of the rich by keeping ordinary workers and the poor down. Stand in front of a bin truck and they may well jail you. Pocket millions, some of which would have otherwise gone to health or education, and they will ask you over for dinner.
For more information see The campaigns against the Bin charges
This edition is No78 published in November 2003