Abuse of privilege should be ended

Unionists are still naming people in the British House of Commons or Lords, accusing them of crime.

This is an abuse.

The privilege by which members of British parliaments are able to make accusations without penalty should be abolished. It will be abolished only when the British parliamentary system is reformed, a possibility so remote that most people in Europe would not take it seriously .

This ‘parliamentary privilege’ is not only a British institution. The abuse of it is a British unionist institution.

It has happened often. Those who have been so named by unionist politicians may laugh it off or they may have police at their doors warning them that after this their lives may be in danger.

Having your life threatened or taken or your windows broken may follow your being named in the British houses of Commons or Lords.

In most cases unionist abuse of the undemocratic privilege may mean nothing more to the victim than irritation and yet another useless demand on the Speaker of the Houses to get on with democratising their assemblies. The British parliamentary political system is based upon the privileges of the few, not upon the rights of the many - which is one good reason why we in Ireland should get ourselves free of it as soon as possible.

To put people at such risk is at best an act of discourtesy, at worst an act of cruel irresponsibility.

That any member of the British parliament should do it should at least cause a stir in a parliament where even to tell a lie or call a fellow member by a vulgar name is considered serious enough for suspension.

Calling a fellow-member a cheat - which one may be or not - is considered worse than putting Irish people in danger of losing reputation, comfort or life.

There is no excuse for continuing this bitter nonsense of parliamentary privilege.

At its best it was meant for a time when Britain did not have the immense network of police, spying services, prisons and special powers which it has today. Such a device was thought necessary when their protective services were not clever enough or able enough to protect the state.

Now they have all their investigative and controlling mechanisms they need - not as many as they want but more than they need; there is no need then for the extra ‘protection’ of parliamentary privilege.

Nowadays, whatever about the past, such parliamentary privilege can too easily hurt those outside parliament who have no protection.

It should be abolished and the sooner the better.

Meanwhile the least the London government should do is control the abuse of parliamentary privilege while it is still there.

At times a speaker who had a conscience stopped unionists in their tracks when trying to name someone.

But any appeal to the speaker that such abuse of privilege should be prevented altogether fell on deaf parliamentary ears.

In the British system, in which a fellow in black knee britches ceremonially batters the door of parliament pretending that the monarch needs permission to get in, change from what is old and irrational to what is fresh and reasonable is almost impossible.

The London parliament, instead of progressing to a new world, worships the old even when it ceases to benefit even its own people.

Unionists will continue to abuse the London parliament as long as we send unionists to it, so the sooner we stop doing that the better too.

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© 2007 Irish Republican News