Qui Custodiet…?

In a caustic stab at the Progressive Democrats in the Dáil last year, Pat Rabbitte ridiculed the party’s perception as a rottweiler in Government guarding against the excesses of Fianna Fáil, instead likening it to a senile old sheepdog lying on the porch unable to tell the difference between a burglar and the postman.

In today’s Irish Times (subs. req.), Vincent Browne argues that the South’s media has become such a senile old sheepdog – so reliant on scraps from the gardaí that cannot bite that hand that feeds it. This, argues Browne, is particularly true in the media’s treatment of the shooting dead of two armed robbers in Lusk last week.

Journalism has changed here in the last 30 years. If in 1975 gardaí had killed two people, one of them unarmed, the media would have been in hot pursuit, writes Vincent Browne.

It would not have mattered that the two persons killed were engaged in a serious criminal act. Neither would it have mattered that one or both of these persons had been convicted previously of serious offences.

The taking of human life would have been regarded as serious and the circumstances would have been investigated. But now, who cares? Gardaí have eliminated two “scumbags” and society is all the better for having two fewer on the streets.

There is a market explanation for the media’s failure to investigate these matters. It is that the public mind is now so set in the belief that “scumbags” deserve what is coming to them that to take an opposite line is to invite marked rejection.

When The Irish Times carried the “heavy gang” stories by Peter Murtagh and Joe Joyce in 1976 the paper suffered a decline in sales. Some advertisements also may have been withdrawn. That’s the way it is in our free-market media world.

Another reality of the media world is that if a media outlet publishes material critical or questioning of the gardaí stories dry up from the gardaí.

This is the reality for “security correspondents” or “crime correspondents” – they can’t bite the hand that feeds them.

  • Keith M

    The Labour party cannot have it both ways. It cannot have its front bench talking about how the “PD tail is wagging the FF dog” or how the PDs have shown how a minor party in government can have an expotentially bigger say in the running of the country one week and then come up with nonsense like this the next.

    I can understand how Labour, being squeezed by FG on the liberal / social democrat side and by SF/IRA on the left may feel itself under pressure to come up with easy soundbites.

    As for Vincent Browne and the “senile old sheepdog”, the old phrase “it takes one to know one” springs to mind.

  • fair_deal

    “Notes on Northern Ireland politics and culture” so why a note on the politics of the republic of ireland?

  • foreign correspondent

    There is a need for a proper left-wing quality in the Republic, in my opinion, along the lines of the Guardian; one which is unafraid to tackle the establishment. The Indo is pure rubbish, and The Irish Times, although it has a lot of good points, is a bit schizophrenic. I mean, it must be one of the few quality papers in Europe that often espouses a social democrat type line, as in the articles of Fintan O’Toole, and also regularly has foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing ravings, a la Kevin Myers. (Although just occasionally, he can be quite funny)

  • Keith Mallon

    Maybe old Vincent’s diagnosis is correct (although he’s hardly one to talk) but are the public actually wrong to feel no sympathy for the two “scumbags” who were blown away??

  • Davros

    “are the public actually wrong to feel no sympathy for the two “scumbags” who were blown away??”

    Who is to judge ?

    I do have some sympathy for the families of the dead men, but none for the two who were killed.

  • maca

    Dav
    “I do have some sympathy for the families of the dead men, but none for the two who were killed.”

    I agree, I have no sympathy for the men either, but on the other there must be careful constraints put on the use of firearms by Gardaí. IF one of the men was actually unarmed then this is an unlawful shooting. A thorough search by the media might drag out some details of the robbery and might in future lead to measures such as better firearms training or tighter control on the use of weapons.
    But this is a different issue…

  • carlosblancos

    Maca I don’t think that because one of the robbers was unarmed that it is therefore an unlawful shooting. There was a guy killed in London a few years ago when cops mistook a table leg he was carrying as a weapon. The cops were not convicted or jailed.

  • Occasional Commentator (was Commenter)

    Even if you don’t have any sympathy for the 2 men, you have to realise that it’s only a matter of time before the Gardai blow away a few perfectly innocent people. In fact, how can we really be 100% certain that these 2 were serious criminals? We can’t have a military organization going around killing people without due process …

  • Davros

    IF one of the men was actually unarmed then this is an unlawful shooting.

    not necessarily maca. There’s a hugely important point here – whether or not either men was armed is not relevent to this particular point – their killing would be legal as long as the gardai had reason to thing that they were in danger – so if it was reasonable at the time of the shots being fired to assume that the men were armed and posed a threat the killing was within the law. What is found to be the case retrospectively does not affect the judgement of the gardai actions at the time when the shots were fired.

  • peteb

    It’s interesting that Vincent Browne restricts his comments to “security” and “crime” correspondents. Alright, so it’s the nature of the story that sparked his latest opinion piece.. but, since he’s criticising the, alleged, changing nature of journalism, he should have included political correspondents in his criticism.. but then, of course, he’d have to include himself..

  • maca

    Carlos
    “There was a guy killed in London a few years ago..”

    yes I know the case, but in that instance there was a ‘reasonable assumption’ that guy was armed … of course it may be the same here …

    Dav
    “their killing would be legal as long as the gardai had reason to thing that they were in danger”

    It’s a difficult case though. If a guy is unarmed he poses little threat. Of course it can be argued that it wasn’t possible to see for sure if the guy was armed or not but that the logical assumption at the time was that he was also armed then i’m sure the Gardaí have a case.
    My point is basically that in such cases caution is required, and an investigation might lead to better controls and the prevention of someone being shot who didn’t really pose a threat.
    Who knows but better trained police might not have shot that guy!?

    “What is found to be the case retrospectively does not affect the judgement of the gardai actions at the time when the shots were fired.”

    Certainly true. But the judgement of the Gardaí much be examined in all such cases in my opinion.

    Basically I just don’t trust Gardaí with weapons after seeing them on a firing range 🙂

  • Ringo

    OC

    In fact, how can we really be 100% certain that these 2 were serious criminals?

    Is armed robbery not a serious crime?

    I don’t think this is a media issue – I was struck by the absense of any sympathy for these two from any source – barring the token request by Amnesty for an inquiry – which nobody disagrees with from what I can see. There is no shortage of people out there itching to land another punch on the Guards over their behaviour in Donegal, Abbeylara etc… but there seems to be no appetite to criticise them in this instance – as the personification of the increasingly brazen criminal industry, they had it coming.

    Interesting that the Ban Garda who killed the old lady at the bus stop in Clonskeagh avoided any significant scrutiny of her actions due to the story been overtaken by the bus crash in Meath last week. Funnily enough I don’t remember hearing Amnesty calling for an inquiry into her killing, reckless use of vehicles resulting in dead while in the pursuit of criminals doesn’t have the same ring to it as reckless use of firearms.

  • Davros

    But the judgement of the Gardaí much be examined in all such cases in my opinion.

    100% agree.

  • Mick

    FD:

    “Notes on Northern Ireland politics and culture” so why a note on the politics of the republic of ireland?”

    That strapline is becoming something of a pedant’s charter. We’ve always taken the widest possible remit on Slugger. It’s something that most readers enjoy.

    Thus the rattling good fun had by all concerned on the Champion’s League thread (of which more later)!

  • Martin

    I myself have no sympathy for the 2 men killed ,although duress might be the reason for the younger ones participation-heard something about him being forced to participate in robbery because he was in drug debt to leader,however legally had he lived this would not have been a viable defence since when threat was made and robbery took place enough time had elapsed to negate an iminent peril to his life. I do have sympathy for their families.

    I do agree with Maca on tighter controls of gardai arms proceedure.This story could easily have been .Gardai kill several innocent workers armed raiders get away -Gardai following up “definite line of enquiry”

  • maca

    “Notes on Northern Ireland politics and culture” so why a note on the politics of the republic of ireland?”
    “We’ve always taken the widest possible remit on Slugger.”

    Of course you can just point out that there is a significant percentage of people in NI who are citizens of the Irish state which makes such issues of interest to those people.

  • Davros

    Of course you can just point out that there is a significant percentage of people in NI who are citizens of the Irish state which makes such issues of interest to those people.

    And that for those of us who are not Irish citizens politics in the ROI is still relevent to our politics because of the expansion of cross-border bodies and political activity, just as EU and US politics has a relevence .

  • barney

    “”There was a guy killed in London a few years ago..”

    yes I know the case, but in that instance there was a ‘reasonable assumption’ that guy was armed … of course it may be the same here …”

    The extenuating circumstance in the Hackney case was that the police ‘reasonably assumed’ he was Irish.

  • Martin

    SORRY RAN OUT OF SPACE ABOVE.

    A case in point.When John Carthy’s mother called Gardai to take away his legally held shotgun because she feared he was a DANGER TO HIMSELF,due to depression,due to GARDAI harrassment over a stolen pub mascot=cloth goat teddy, which he was subsequently and posthumously cleared of stealing

    She didnt expect them to deal with this problem by shooting him 4 times in the back and killing him.
    During the seige of Abbylara they refused to let Johns sister go in and talk to him ,because they feared a hostage crisis, but why wouldnt they let her talk to him by phone, can shotguns fire down phone lines?
    I ALSO REMEMBER hearing a story about a man of hte name of Nugent who got into a fraca with members of GARDAI in A bunratty folk paRK pub

  • Martin

    ANYWAY MR NUGENT got into a fight in a pub with 4 brave members –not on active service–of the Garda ,in a manner very similar to ROBERT MC carthy .HE WAS DRAGGER OUT and according to locals was beaten unconcious by these thugs frome cO CLAREs boysin blue THEN A CAR WAS REVERSED OVER HIM REPEATEDLY .he was reported to have died of natural causes in police custody the next day ,but the locals of EAST clare have a very different story –1970S REPUBLIC, HUSH HUSH DONT CROSS THE GUARDS THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT !!! SOUND FAMILIAR

  • maca

    Dav
    “And that for those of us who are not Irish citizens politics in the ROI is still relevent…”

    Of course, I was just about to add that 😉

    Martin
    In the case of McCarthy there’s one case which I would call an ILlegal shooting of an armed man. Sad case.

  • Betty Boo

    If the guards were waiting for the robbery to take place, is it unreasonable to wonder if there wouldn’t have been another way of preventing it, then to shoot two men dead with a single shoot each?

  • fair_deal

    Mick

    The absence of slugger must have added to my pedantry 😉

    “Thus the rattling good fun had by all concerned on the Champion’s League thread (of which more later)!”

    I wondered when that was going to come up. Look upon it as slugger’s contribution to cross-community relations Paddy canuck and I agreed for an evening. I had expected at least a yellow but a red card was maybe more apt for a number of reasons.

    Maca

    “there is a significant percentage of people in NI who are citizens of the Irish state which makes such issues of interest to those people.”

    There is a signifcant percentage of people in Northern ireland who are citizens of the UK but the latest Lib Dem attack on Blair doesn’t get featured here.

  • maca

    fair_deal
    “There is a signifcant percentage of people in Northern ireland who are citizens of the UK but the latest Lib Dem attack on Blair doesn’t get featured here.”

    And?? The vast majourity of posts on Slugger are related to the UK, you can’t get ALL UK-related news stories or Mick would never get any work done.

  • Henry94

    I don’t think sympathy should come into it at all. I’d just lke to know

    1)Why the Gardai opened fire when the raiders did not

    2)How long was the interval between the warning and the firing

    3)Was there a policy element involved and if so what’s the policy.

    4) Is it acceptable that the Gardai themselves investigate this

  • Davros

    Henry – why should the police have to wait until shots are fired ? Bye-standers and Gardai could be killed … If challenged to drop weapon/weapons and threatening movement in response, then IMO Police have a duty to open fire not only in self defence but to protect the public.

  • MARTIN

    IT has always been my belief that the Patten reforms on policing should have been implemented on both sides of the border under the terms of the G.F.A
    IT is also my firm belief and a lot of Fellow nationalists and republicans will want my blood for this,but i believe in telling the truth rather than propaganda that no-one really believes anyway—THE POLICE SERVICES IN THE NORTH HAVE ALWAYS BEEN MORE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PUBLICTHAN THEIR SOUTHERN COUNTERPARTS we just didnt notice it because unlike the ruc/psni the Garda havent as far as i know participated and colluded in sectarian murders unless you count indirectly doing so by passing on information to northern cops who in turn passed it on to loyalists’
    what im trying to say that political issues asside if you make a complaint about a gardas handling of a day to day law and order issue you have as much chance of getting any satisfaction as against a small town sherriff in a Mississippi backwater.

  • Davros

    IT has always been my belief that the Patten reforms on policing should have been implemented on both sides of the border under the terms of the G.F.A

    Under the terms of the GFA the ‘Patten reforms’ don’t actually have to be implemented in Northern Ireland Martin.

  • martin

    DAVROS,
    Thanks for the correction its actually been a while since I read agreement now that you mention it,I suppose with the passage of time ,patten,cross borderbodies etc just become like our unenumerated rights that we have under the Republics constitution ,only thing is under present sistem in the north we are denied a lot of those high ideals that looked so good in 1998

  • Mick

    FD: try this.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    Henry – why should the police have to wait until shots are fired ?

    Who said they had to. I just asked why in this case they did not.

    Bye-standers and Gardai could be killed

    If the gardai believ that then they should explain the basis for it. Did the raiders raise or point their weapons.

    .. If challenged to drop weapon/weapons and threatening movement in response,

    I’m not clear what threathening movement there was.

    then IMO Police have a duty to open fire not only in self defence but to protect the public.

    I’m not arguing with that but should we simply accept that the police are entitled to claim that without any scrutiny.

    Is it not also possible that the police shot a few robbers because they wanted to send a message about the recent spate of robberies to the criminal classes.

  • Henry94

    If we are going to have the death penalty, and the public glee indicates some support for it, then I would sooner be honest about it and have a judicial process to regulate it.

  • Davros

    Carlos : There was a guy killed in London a few years ago when cops mistook a table leg he was carrying as a weapon. The cops were not convicted or jailed.

    Update :

    Officers arrested over table leg killing

    “Two Metropolitan police officers were today arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the fatal police shooting of an east London painter and decorator who was carrying a table leg.

    Harry Stanley, 46, from Hackney, was shot in the head and hand on September 22 1999 after a table leg he was carrying in a bag was mistaken for a gun.

    The two officers, aged 38 and 42, were arrested today by Surrey police on suspicion of murder, gross negligence, manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

    Article continues
    The men, whose names have not been released, were later released on bail.

    In a statement, Surrey police said the arrests had followed the discovery of new forensic evidence during a review of the investigation.”

  • martin

    What do you all recon the chances of mc Dowell heeding the mc BREARTY call to resign,slim eh

  • Davros

    I’m not usually a betting man, but my money would be on him staying 😉

  • martin

    Davros
    what do u make of this.
    the electricians currently carrying out work on the Garda training college in Templemore and the garda station there ,work for a company who are under investigation by the criminal assets beuro

  • Davros

    That’s bizarre!