Dear Commissioner Harris,
As you will be aware, many most urgent and vital questions remain to be resolved concerning legislation first introduced by the last government in response to the claimed pandemic of Covid-19, and passed, in extremely dubious circumstances, by the Oireachtas in March 2020.
Since early April, the legislation in question has been used to support a series of ad hoc ‘regulations’, issued under dishonest camouflage of Statutory Instruments signed by a succession of individual government ministers, and invariably enforced by An Garda Siochána, under your command.
It is our continued and here reiterated position that this process has been and remains profoundly unconstitutional, unlawful and illegal, and we are reinforced in this position by the fact that the most recent ‘regulations’, concerned with the renewed ‘lockdown’ of Dublin and the limitation of gatherings in family homes, have dropped all pretence of being legally grounded, resorting to formulations which suggest that the regulations are ‘advisory’ and simply seek to ‘encourage’ the public in various directions with regard to observing what are now indistinctly acknowledged by members of An Garda Siochána to be no more than ‘guidelines’.
It has been notable, however, in part due to the connivance of the media with the charade of legality surrounding these packages of regulations, that the public in general has been unaware that the regulations lack any legal force. This could well be deemed a serious deception in which you and your force must be regarded as having been intimately involved.
The role of An Garda Siochána is to fight crime. It has no function in ‘encouraging’ the public to observe voluntary measures directed at alleged health-related objectives. There has emerged in recent weeks an even more disquieting aspect which we believe casts our national police force in an even more worrisome light.
Members of the public, contrary to the text of the regulations in question, are being improperly refused the right to exemption from wearing face masks in certain public contexts, at the whim of officials and others who are afforded no such power or entitlement under the relevant regulations — and most definitively not by decree of the parent legislation — and that this has in a number of instances been done with the support and collaboration of members of An Garda Siochana who have been summoned to support these denials of fundamental civil rights and have, instead of upholding the law, compelled people to abandon their journeys without any legal basis under threat of arrest. On a number of occasions, people with bona fide reasons not to wear face masks, a matter clearly provided for under the relevant regulations, have in fact been arrested, usually on a trumped-up indictment under the Public Order Act.
There are a growing number of specific case histories of such incidents, whereby members of An Garda Siochana were summoned by what the regulations describe as ‘relevant persons’ to attend at incidents where, for example, ticket-holders and other users of public transport were being summarily refused their right to travel without wearing a face mask, despite their having a legitimate exemption and being fully in compliance with the requirements of both the governmental regulations and parent legislation. In all instances, these citizens were threatened, manhandled and in some instances subjected to summary arrest.
Taken in conjunction with the point made above, whereby it is clear that An Garda Siochna has no legitimate role to play in the enforcement of these regulations, this would appear to amount to unlawful intimidation of members of the public, a serious misuse of the authority of An Garda Siochána and its monopoly authorisation to employ state coercion, a matter on which the force holds an exclusive franchise. It is the least of the problems with this farrago of abusive behaviour — though it ought to be of extreme concern to the Commissioner of An Garda Siochána — that it has brought the law into serious disrepute.
It is important, if somewhat surreal, to recall at this juncture that the objective of these ‘guidelines’ was in the beginning supposedly the general protection of health, and it is both ominous and bizarre that, in the alleged pursuit of this end, so many of your offers have deliberately and callously trampled on the rights of genuinely ill people, a pattern that gives the lie to official claims that any of this is for the intentions proffered to the public.
You will have been made aware, we presume, that in this jurisdiction we have a written Constitution, Bunreacht na Éireann, which at elaborate length acknowledges and guarantees the fundamental rights of human persons under God and before the law. Article 40, for example, declares that ‘[a]ll citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law’, but goes on to elaborate as follows:
‘This shall not be held to mean that the State shall not in its enactments have due regard to differences of capacity, physical and moral, and of social function.’
And further, in Article 40.3. 1° it is asserted:
1° The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen.
And further still in Article 40.3.2°:
The State shall, in particular, by its laws protect as best it may from unjust attack and, in the case of injustice done, vindicate the life, person, good name, and property rights of every citizen.’
Over the past seven months, in the period of open abrogation of many elements of the Constitution by State forces, especially An Garda Siochána, it has become increasingly clear that the ‘regulations’ and ‘guidelines’ being applied in this regard had no legal force and therefore no constitutional or other basis. Several of your officers are on public record in admitting as much, and others, regrettably, have been observed expressing outright contempt in the face of citizens who seek to invoke these and other constitutional protections.
This behaviour notwithstanding, it remains the case that graduand officers of An Garda Siochána, and also newly appointed Commissioners, are required to swear an oath declaring as follows:
‘I hereby solemnly and sincerely declare before God that—
• I will faithfully discharge the duties of a member of the Garda Síochána with fairness, integrity, regard for human rights, diligence and impartiality, upholding the Constitution and the laws and according equal respect to all people,
• while I continue to be a member, I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all my duties according to law, and
• I do not belong to, and will not while I remain a member form, belong to or subscribe to, any political party or secret society whatsoever.’
And whereas this oath has already been rendered threadbare by the sight on occasion of Garda officers driving about the jurisdiction in vehicles adorned with the rainbow flag of the LGBT activist movement, these undertakings remain in force and as such represent some measure of reassurance to the Irish public in these increasingly worrisome times.
We remind you that you and your officers have responsibilities that go beyond merely carrying out governmental orders and that these include a responsibility to verify that all instructions given to you are legitimate and lawful, and moreover that you do not in any regard seek to deceive the public as to the status or legitimacy of any measures implemented by you.
We call upon you to issue, as a matter of extreme urgency, an instruction to members of An Garda Siochána to cease and desist from the kinds of behaviours we have outlined, and additionally to issue a statement of public clarification with regard to the precise status of these regulations and the role, if any, of An Garda Siochána in implementing them; or, alternatively, in the event that you believe the force under your command has a legitimate role to play in their implementation, to outline and explain the nature and legal basis of such.
In the final stages of composing this present letter, our attention was drawn to what appears to be an interview with you conducted by RTÉ ‘Crime Correspondent’ Paul Reynolds and published under the headline ‘Warning over “authoritarian” response to gatherings’, on the RTÉ website on Wednesday, September 30th.
There are many disquieting aspects to this interview, but for the sake of brevity, we would summarise the primary problem as being that you do not appear to be aware of the legalities or protocols concerning State operation of the Constitution of Ireland or the limits of State power so resulting, or in particular the limits of the authority of the position of Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, currently occupied by you.
Acccording to Mr Reynolds’ text, you informed him that ‘gardaí do not have the power under the health regulations to break up house parties or large gatherings if there are no breaches of the criminal law.’
Mr Reynolds continued: ‘Drew Harris also warned of the dangers of an “authoritarian” policing response and said he would not be in favour of granting gardaí powers to enter people’s homes.’
Mr Reynolds further stated:
‘These matters he said were “not catered for within the present regulations” but the gardaí were involved in persuading people to disperse, dampen down the ambiance of the occasion and encourage people to go home.’
‘The Commissioner also said that house parties had increased because of Covid-19, and that while gardaí respond to complaints people have constitutional rights as regards the protection of the homeplace.
‘He said it was not just young people who were having parties and gardaí work to bring them to an end through persuasion. They also have access to other laws such as drugs and public order.
‘He accepted that this may not fulfil some of the public concern, but he said he was reluctant to see increased powers to allow gardaí go into people’s homes.
‘”To enter a home to break up a house party is a very serious escalation of our powers and it is a road we should be very slow to embark on,” he said.’
These statements, attributed to you, are — if accurate — deeply disquieting to any sentient Irish citizen who is aware of what has been going on in this country for the past seven months. You are correct when you say that people have constitutional rights as regards the protection of their dwellings (you say ‘homeplace’).
Article 40.5 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states:
‘The dwelling of every citizen is inviolable and shall not be forcibly entered save in accordance with law.’
Although in recent months, the idea appears to have entered the consciousness of the Irish State and its political and policing elements that the phrase ‘save in accordance with law’ means simply that the politicians must simply make up a law to abrogate any constitutional protection adumbrated in the text of said constitution, we wish to remind you that this is not the case. The meaning of ‘inviolable’ is ‘never to be broken, infringed, or dishonoured’. In recent months, taking advantage of a manufactured panic to declare an exceptional public health crisis, our political class has engaged in the most flagrant and unprecedented attempts to abrogate or derogate from many of the core and fundamental protections extended or even simply, as the text emphasises, ‘recognised’ by the Constitution of Ireland as natural rights and freedoms. The phrase ‘save in accordance with law’ does not, as many of these actors appear to imagine, simply mean that they can concoct a law to extend themselves permission to dismantle even the most essential rights and freedoms of the Irish people, and this, in this instance, on the basis of a global scam which is now in the process of being rumbled. This is not merely wicked; it is in addition constitutionally mistaken, as the recent standing-down of many aspects of the enforcement (as outlined above) of recent Covid ‘regulations’ indicates wiser heads appear to be telling those currently in positions of power and authority in the Government of Ireland.
The Constitution of Ireland is the document given by the Irish people to itself under God as a guarantor and mnemonic of its rights and freedoms. Words contained in the text of said Constitution mean what they say. The word ‘inviolable’, therefore, means ‘never to be broken, infringed, or dishonoured’. The phrase ‘save in accordance with law’ does not mean ‘save at the whim of capricious tyrant rulers or other gangsters’; it means that, if or when the people wish to extend themselves additional protections, they will discuss among themselves and thereafter decide, generally by means of a constitutional referendum, whether it is prudent to qualify in any respect the otherwise absolute right or protection referred to. In this process, members of the Government, the Oireachtas, Civil Service and other State actors, including the Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, are mere servants of the people, and not in any sense their masters. They have no role to play in this process other than in their capacities as individual citizens operating in concert with other citizens.
The situation therefore remains that, as Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, it is not a matter for you to state or opine as to whether you would favour or oppose the abrogation of constitutional rights and freedoms. The constitutional position is not affected by your ‘reluctance’ to intrude on people’s rights and freedoms. It is not a matter of the ‘slowness’ or otherwise of An Garda Siochána to behave one way or another. Nor, indeed, is it a matter of the unavailability of any entitlement of An Garda Siochána to invade the dwellings of Irish citizens under the Health Act 1947, but that, over the more than eight decades of the lifetime of Bunreacht na hÉireann, in times of war and times of peace, in times of great strife and times of necessity, in times of hardship and times of danger, the Irish people have made abundantly clear that they wish to retain the inviolability of their own dwellings from State incursion, this to be enforced by the courts with due reverence for the text of the Constitution, and ultimately at the ballot box.
Particularly disquieting, then, in this context, is the following statement, attributed to you my Mr Reynolds of RTÉ:
‘To enter a home to break up a house party is a very serious escalation of our powers and it is a road we should be very slow to embark on,’” he said.’
To enter a home to break up any kind of ‘party’ would indeed be a very serious escalation of the powers of An Garda Siochána. To put it more precisely, it would, as things stand, amount to an egregious constitutional breach and would constitute, so to speak, a breach of your oath of office and of the oaths of any officers involved in its execution. Contrary to your repeated insinuation in the interview with Mr Reynolds, you simply do not have the authority to do such a thing. It is not a matter of whether you would be ‘slow’ or ‘fast’, ‘reluctant’ or ’keen’, in ‘embarking’ upon such a course of action. As far as your position as Commissioner of An Garda Siochána is concerned, the inviolability of a citizen’s dwelling is a matter of constitutional law and, in that context and otherwise, a matter ultimately for the people of Ireland, of whom — again — you purport to be a servant.
Here we would like to draw attention to an odd and ostensibly random use of language that has crept into public discourse in recent times, and infected also your own statements as Commissioner. Your interview with Mr Reynolds refers repeatedly to ‘house parties’, a phrase not hitherto commonly used to describe what in fact is merely the natural, normative and entirely lawful congrgation of people in each others’ homes. In one instance the phrase was attributed by Mr Reynolds to you: ‘To enter a home to break up a house party is a very serious escalation of our powers and it is a road we should be very slow to embark on,’ he said.
What you appear to refer to here might include any of, though by no means confined to, the following list: a children’s birthday party; a family reunion; a casual ramble by neighbours; a wake, a Mass or other religious service, a Baptismal, Communion, Confirmation or engagement celebration, a community meeting, a card game, and so forth. Such events are not ‘house parties’, a phrase apparently designed by a neuro-linguistic programmer to summon up images of can-wielding yobs moshing to deafening rave music while many of their compadres lie comatose from intoxication. They are essential gatherings of human persons, in the capacities as family members, neighbours and citizens, all but invariably in the interests of family celebration, everyday human interaction and/or community cohesion. To refer to them as you do is an attempt, in our submission, to trivialise and render sinister their significance, so as to undermine their meaning and validity at the level of public discourse, and therefore public opinion. This is yet a further example of the authoritarian creep upon the fundamental rights of Irish citizens in which you have participated as a leading player over the past seven months.
A further disquieting aspect of your interview with Mr Reynolds is a reference at the end to the operation in Ireland of what you call the ‘far right’ and the conduct of public protests in response to the grotesque incursions on public freedom arising from the continuing State responses to the alleged spread of SARS-CoV-2, and in particular a statement attributed it seems in part to your subordinate, Deputy Commissioner John Twomey.
Mr Reynolds states:
‘Gardaí have told the Policing Authority that they regarded far right activity in Ireland as a matter of national security and were keeping the minister informed.
‘The Garda Commissioner pointed out that it was ‘Deputy Commissioner John Twomey said hundreds of protests take place in Dublin city centre every year, and gardaí had to vindicate the rights of people to protest as well as protecting the public.
‘He said problems arise when groups do not engage with gardaí beforehand and when opposing groups face each other.’
Whereas it is difficult to divine from these paragraphs whether these ruminations are intended to extend beyond the usual media and party political propaganda suggesting that ordinary citizens protesting in defence of their most fundamental rights and freedoms are indicative of the presence in Ireland of something of the order of neo-Nazi sentiments, the overall tone of these paragraphs is nevertheless ominous indeed.
Firstly, there is no ‘far right’ in Ireland. The very idea, as you know full well, is utterly and comprehensively absurd, a figment of the malignant imaginations of journalists and self-interested politicians.
Secondly, whereas it is unclear what is meant by the assertion that this (non-existent in Ireland) ‘far right’ trend is ‘a European phenomenon and not confined to Ireland’, the construction nevertheless appears to buttress an assertion for which no evidence has been forthcoming.
The assertion that ‘far right activity in Ireland’ would be something to be regarded as ‘a matter of national security’ would have some basis if it were the case that there was indeed a ‘far right’ presence in Ireland in the first place, and had this case been abundantly demonstrated. Since claims to this effect are entirely without basis, the statement amounts to a circular construction comprising an allegation supported only by a tautology. In other words, it is a lie delivered by trickery with words.
Finally, then, the ambiguous statement — unclear as to whether it is attributable to Deputy Commissioner or to you — that ‘problems arise [with protests] when groups do not engage with gardaí beforehand and when opposing groups face each other’, is either profoundly ignorant of the factual position or deeply mendacious As we do not doubt you are well aware, the reference to ‘opposing groups’ is a disingenuous construction referring to a series of recent incidents in which peaceful protesting citizens, engaging in lawful public demonstrations, have been set upon by members of the international terrorist organisation, Antifa (clearly hired and remunerated by State entities), and subjected to harassment, threats of violence and, in some instances, actual violent assault. In a number of instances, to our certain knowledge and in our own direct experience, these attacks have been conducted with the full advance knowledge and cooperation of of An Garda Siochána, and therefore with at least the tacit approval of you, the Commissioner of An Garda Siochána. It is pointless trying to deny this, as we have abundant evidence from various events over the past year, when the truth of this interpretation was observed at first hand by numerous witnesses, including the undersigned. Moreover, notwithstanding a number of alleged arrests of Antifa members during recent demonstrations, no prosecutions have as yet been advanced.
We therefore call upon you, as Garda Commissioner, not merely to desist from issuing misleading and manipulative statements concerning the factual position with regard to protests against the present attacks upon public freedoms by State forces, and cease the constant stream of propaganda directed at law-abiding citizens in which you have improperly engaged in recent time, but also to put an end to the abusive practices on the part of members of the force under your command, which you seek by obfuscation and manipulation to deny.
We request, further to the above, that you issue with immediate effect a clarification of the contents of your recent interview with Mr Reynolds of RTÉ, together with an undertaking that you will confine your future statements to matters relating to the operational administration of An Garda Siochána, and so refrain from intruding upon matters which are of their nature political, which is to say ultimately matters for the Irish people.
We also request, as already stated, that you issue, as a matter of extreme urgency, an instruction to members of An Garda Siochána to cease and desist from engaging in activities, such as those outlined above, that bring the law into disrepute,and additionally to issue a statement of public clarification, from the operational perspective of An Garda Siochána, with regard to the precise status of the ‘regulations’ or ‘guidelines’ currently in operation cocerning the alleged spread of the virus SARS-CoV-2, and the role, if any, of An Garda Siochána in implementing them. In the event that you agree with us that An Garda Siochána has no role in their implementation, which is to say in ‘persuading’ the public in one direction or another, we request you to recall your officers from their inappropriate and damaging exercise of public bullying on behalf of law-breaking entities such as transport companies and the like.
In the event that you fail to comply with these requests, we reserve the right to use this letter in the issuing of legal proceedings against you in person and in your capacity as Commissioner of An Garda Siochána, and to seek your removal from that position on the grounds that you have breached your oath of appointment and illegally pursued the abrogation of fundamental rights and entitlements of Irish citizens contrary to the Constitution of Ireland, this to occur without further notice to you.
We look forward to your urgent responses.