Nora wastes her day off
It was invigorating to see the issue of crimes making the number
one slot on the RTE News (9pm weekdays) on the bank holiday
Monday, beating off stiff competition from the story of two old
age pensioners who died of natural causes, and Day 378 of Zaire's
Up popped Nora Owen, Fine Gael's dynamic Minister for Justice,
and it was nice to see her wasting her day off, having to stand
in the lashing rain in front of Leinster House and pontificate
about the underclass problem.
Nora, a grand-niece of Michael Collins and considered to be on
the liberal wing of Fine Gael, issued what she imagined to be a
blistering broadside against Fianna Fáil and the Progressive
Democrats. Why, the last time these two parties were in power,
she said, they had hardly jailed any extra people at all!
She, on the other hand, had ordered more prison spaces so that
more people could stay in jail, passed a no-bail referendum, so
that more people could be sent to jail earlier, and had improved
the court and prison systems so that more people could go to
But despite the amazing success of Nora Owen's farsighted
approach to the issue of crime, Fianna Fáil still had to
Bertie Ahern appeared on the screen, and accused her of pilfering
his brilliant idea of building more prisons. What's more, he
added with sadness, she hadn't even stolen the idea properly
until the killing of Veronica Guerin.
Next up were the Progressive Democrats (Motto: ``They don't want
work''), with a new, improved policy document on crime. It
includes such novel ideas as more prison spaces, an end to
probation, and longer sentences.
Surprisingly, the PD's Liz O'Donnell was also the only one of the
three politicians to mention crime and poverty in the same
breath. Her party believes in ``strategies to deal with long-term
unemployment, exclusion and drug-addiction'', but in the meantime,
there should be more people in jail.
Now, while it's only magnanimous to give credit to the PDs, even
the cops know that 80 per cent of all crimes are committed by
junkies, who must rob hundreds of pounds' worth of other people's
belongings each day just to get a fix.
The PDs are right, of course, that drug abuse is often driven by
poverty, mas unemployment, a poor education system and a general
sense that life is never going to amount to much, so why not blow
it all. And I'm sure that Bertie Ahern, who represents a Dublin
constituency, has figured this out too.
But I suppose it would be too much to expect that I might one day
turn on my television and hear Bertie, or Nora, say:
``We're going to invest £90 million in drug treatment centres,
give people the immediate fix they need so that they don't have
to steal and buy drugs from evil pushers, help them kick the
habit even if that takes many months, train them for real
employment, then create those jobs. We'll use some of the
dividends from the Celtic Tiger to combat poverty, provide decent
housing, and we'll level the economic playing field by pumping
resources into schools everywhere.''
It would be great, too, to see the PDs hard-headed,
value-for-the-taxpayer approach being applied to the Gardaí.
Liz O'Donnell might say: ``The guards have lost control of crime
in this state because of a corrosive cocktail of corruption and
incompetence. They are expert at claiming overtime and processing
drunken driving cases, yet have failed to penetrate the ranks of
a single drug distribution gang. Their policing methods are
crass, outdated and simply inappropriate.''
``In government,'' she could add, ``we will downsize and re-engineer
this wasteful and ineffective company.''
But then, Gardaí vote, and junkies don't. So I suppose I'm just
being my usual, undemocratic, republican self in suggesting that
there should even a real debate, some time between now and
By Michael Kennedy