Joan Burton and the Political Policing of Labour

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Joan Burton

 Its hard to know were to begin. A Labour minister announced yesterday that sections of the police force are to be drafted in to set up road blocks and stop workers in cars outside industrial estates.

When I first heard this mentioned on my Facebook and Twitter feeds I assumed it was some kind of left knee jerk interpretation. (I’m prone to them myself) Then I thought it might be FG spin from either within Burton’s department or the Dept of Finance to politically damage Burton. This was before I realised she said this herself on air, though ‘clarifying’ later in the day that she was referring to industrial estates rather than housing estates. Should we be eternally grateful that a Labour minister in only sending cops to harrass the labouring classes at our places of work, rather than at our homes? This is a deeply authoritarian step for any government to take, and as such it is a risk for Labour in further antagonizing ordinary working class people . Though given that Labour is hemorrhaging support, it seems that the party will face a similar fate to other  centrist minor coalition partners right across Europe over the last ten years.

This political policing begs some serious questions too. How exactly is a cop stopping cars of people coming out or heading into a days work going to be able to tell if people are signing on the dole while working. Under what legislation can a police force be entitled to demand your personal information on the presumptive basis that all workers coming out of a workplace might be doing the double. On what information are they using to pick those to stop. Are they going to stop every car, thereby creating long tail backs for workers in and out of work? I cant help thinking of how the RUC used to stop people coming and going to local GAA matches, creating massive tailbacks, often delaying kick off times. Simple harassment of a population to suits the states aim. What’s the difference here? Are people who work in industrial estates going to have to do what people in the north used to? Head off half an hour early to build in time being held in a traffic queue by the cops? How long does the Labour/FG government think people will put up with this shit?

Text from Burton's summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism

Text from Burton’s summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism (Thks @electionlit for flagging

Some other question arise around the particulars of this policing. Even the police commissioner has had his traffic penalty point wiped of the system by police under his command yet the only punitive measure around this has been the Independent newspaper sacking the journalist who had the temerity to ask the obvious questions. The Independents Group Editor in Chief also got his point wiped off, so you can see why the journalist in question was sacked.

But the widespread collusion and cover up of misuse and abuse of centralised data on people living in Ireland by the police force puts us in a position that demands critical attention. Is the state actually going to allow cops to be hardwired into the social welfare databases? At workplace check-points are people going to be asked to give names and addresses that are then typed into the welfare database? Or will they radio in to an already overstreached frontline social welfare workers? Given that the police force has demonstrated its untrustworthiness around centralised penalty point databases , how can they be trusted with information on people benefits, claims history etc. Its seems entirely foolish, whilst the traffic penalty point affair has been swept under the carpet, that the population as a whole, and million odd of us with personal information stored on the state welfare system should have any confidence that this information can any longer be considered secure.

We know the governments #Budget2014 buzz word wasincentivise” but given the regular leaking from police sources to journalists in Ireland, surely this opens up new incentives for bent cops to get information they can sell? If the Data Commissioner isn’t thinking about this right now, they should be. This also demands a response from the Trade Union movement. The Trade Union movement as a whole should be asking question of the GRA too.

On another level though, this is about much more than not trusting the police force with access to the largest dataset of personal information on people living in Ireland. The decision to set up workplace check points need to be contrasted with the states approach the actual largest welfare fraudsters in this country. Noonan announced yesterday that companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, as well as the entire banking and financial sector will have another full year to siphon off hundreds if not thousands of millions of euros in legal tax dodging schemes. This year’s grace will no doubt allow the Irish legal firms that rubber stamp their cooked books. They along with with the banking cartels, (the main block within the Clearing House Group,) will have ample time to devise with their partnered civil servants in the Dept of Finance, other specific legal tax dodging strategies that will fulfill Noonan’s limited demand of resident corporations not being stateless. And you can rest assure not one hi viz cop will be involved.

If this government can find the resources to pay lots of police to stand like pricks outside industrial estates across the country, where people are actually doing real worth, whyhas the state only had one forensic accountant working on the investigation into the money/credit creation scams at Anglo? I got a question asked in the Dail around the levels of policing in the ongoing Anglo investigations in early 2012. This was Noonan’s answer back then

..as of 14 February (2012), the current strength of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is seventy one, comprising one Superintendent, five Inspectors, fifteen Sergeants and fifty Gardaí.  Twenty-six Garda personnel are engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, comprising sixteen personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, including fifteen Garda investigators and a forensic accountant as well as ten members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to ODCE.”

The investigation into Anglo has to include tens of thousand of emails, correspondence as well as lots and lots of cooked books. yet the state investigation has 26 cops looking at it. And one, yes one, person qualified to check those cooked books.

Anglo alone will cost us €52,000,000,000 (€52 Billion). Welfare fraud has been shown by Michael Taft of Unite to be in the region of €26,000,000. So Anglo costs us about two thousand times the level of welfare fraud. That’s not even mentioning the other ongoing payments the state continues to make week in and week out to unsecured bondholders. Clearly we can understand now that the myth of wealth creation of the Celtic Tiger was actually processes of debt creation and by extension welfare fraud.

The dissonance is striking and sickening. Not only has the institutions (both local and transnational) of financial capitalism captured the legislative dimensions of the state, but in effect they have the power to direct policing resources away from their own activities. Whilst we have the ideological drive and practical manifestations of deregulation of the financial sector as it churns out debt, we are now told by the government that we should willing accept the imposition of physical policing of the places of actual wealth creation, our workplaces.

What this shows that despite the language of consensus politics emanating from the political classes (“We have all sacrificed” “we are all in this together”), is the government is increasingly adopting approaches to and within the Great Recession that foreground the politics of contention and antagonism which form the actual basis of the captured state. In terms of how economies function these days, it makes little sense to think there is an actual divide between the financial economy (which creates debt ) and the real economy (where we create real wealth through our work). But from a social and political and radical democratic perspective the conceptual divide is useful in helping us understand how power really works in this state. The only suitable response to both the government and to the individuals in uniform doing their political policing. A polite but firm “fuck off.”

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3 thoughts on “Joan Burton and the Political Policing of Labour

  1. Its equally hard to believe that someone like you would condone people ripping of the state by collecting social welfare and working. Unless you are one of them that is doing just that. If you or anyone for that matter is working then and not collecting welfare then what have people got to worry about. I welcome this innovative.

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  2. Pingback: Policing Welfare | Broadsheet.ie

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