Written on: 1. 3. 2021 in the category: Uncategorized

A Good Legal Egg

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Firstly, this space does not join witch-hunts for reasons which might be obvious to its few readers, and if I even suspected one was gathering, I’d stay silent. Secondly, following two recent columns, I am not trying to habitually, ahem, harass an Uachtarain. But we – not a royal plural, but a generic which applies to its readers as much as it does to its author – like to see the truth. This not a commodity which is being sought by Official Ireland in relation to our former President Mary Robinson, not least in the quite grisly interview by Ryan Tubridy on RTE’s The Late Late show recently. Those interested in getting the background to this should read the excellent piece by Margaret Hickey in gript.ie.

In 1998, Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that she had been “saddened” by the lawful execution in Texas of double-murderer Karla Tucker after a fifteen-year legal process of trial and appeal. “I have full sympathy for the families of the victims of murder and other crimes, but I do not accept that one death justifies another.”

She then reiterated her adherence to the UN’s Covenant on Human Rights, which states “The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights.”

In January 2009, Barak Obama was sworn in as President of the USA. Three days later, he ordered two drone strikes in Pakistan, killing one “militant” and ten civilians, including four or five children. (I quite understand the confusion; it can be deucedly difficult reassembling body-parts after a drone-strike). The following July, UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson accepted the US Medal of Freedom from the man who had authorised these unlawful killings.

In the absence of any condemnation for his inaugural mini-massacre, Obama apparently developed a taste for this kind of thing. During his time in the White House, he personally approved 506* drone strikes, killing 3,040 “terrorists” – presumably they wore identifying beacons on their heads – and 391 civilians, the latter figure being 121 more than were killed by actual terrorists at Lockerbie. He even arranged to have himself videoed watching the “targeted killing” of Osama bin Laden whose assassination he had ordered, plus four of his victim’s companions, including an unarmed woman: his very own snuff-movie. Does the UNHCHR have a confessional position on this sort of stuff, as in, did you take pleasure from watching it, my son?

I regard bin Laden’s murder as a legitimate act of war; but it is surely not the UNHCHR’s duty to make such assessments. What’s more, it seems that certain people may apparently live outside the ordinary rules that govern the rest of us, which expect consistency between word and deed. So Mary Robinson, for example, disdains a lawful killing in Texas yet accepts an award from the authoriser of a group-homicide in Pakistan.

In June 1996, President Robinson denounced speculation that she was in the running to be Secretary-General of the United Nations. “I am not a candidate or seeking the position…..I have made it plain that my focus is on completing my term as President.” (my italics)

Fifteen months later, as fast as her ambitious feet could take her, she skedaddled from Aras an Uachtarain and the rest of her term as the President of Ireland into the sunset to fill the vacancy suddenly left by former UN High Commissioner for Human Right Jose Ayalla Lasso. For two months, Ireland had no president, because she had done precisely what she’d already proclaimed she wouldn’t do.

Yet there was no public outcry over this betrayal of her country in her pursuit of her international career. Why not? Probably because she’s a paid-up liberal, meaning she can talk nonsense yet still be taken seriously. On appointment as boss of UNHCHR she declared being Irish was an advantage. “The fact that Ireland has had a different experience than many other European countries will help.” Well, with a suitable change of the proper noun, that could be said about every other country in Europe.

She then added more beige bilge to please the crowds: “Being Irish, I have no desire to build an empire.”

Really? Her Mayo-born uncle, Sir John Paget Bourke was a knighted official of the British Empire serving in Cyprus around the time that   EOKA terrorists were hanged, later becoming Chief Justice of Sierra Leone. His ancestor, also from Mayo, Major General Sir Oliver Paget Bourke, served in the East Indies and in Crimea, before commanding Queen Victoria’s Royal Bodyguard. So when President Higgins recently opined that “some Irishmen became even enthusiastic accomplices to the excesses, cruelty and hubris of colonialism,” did he have the earlier Robinsons in mind?

Meanwhile, Mary of that ilk has made an empire of her entire life. Most residents of the Park see their arrival there as the final stage in their career, but not Mary Robinson, which is perhaps as President she went to Rwanda on three occasions. Why? What on earth could the president of about 60% of a small sodden island in the North Atlantic possibly achieve there? Ireland has more racial, political, historic, cultural and linguistic ties with one of Saturn’s rings than it does with Rwanda. So: was she burnishing her human-rights credentials with a view to future employment? Fine, but imagine life in poor Kigali if every single European head of state decided to visit Rwanda whenever the mood took them. (What’s on the calendar for next week? What, nothing? In that case, Jeeves, pack our bags: we’re heading to Kigali for a few days’ atrocity-denouncing).

And naturally, one of the first things she did at the UN was to revisit Rwanda: imagine the poor sentries at Kigali Airport blinking in disbelief that no sooner had they seen the back of her as Irish President, she had returned, but this time in UN colours; Hello, everyone, remember me?

She has form here. In 1992, as President of Ireland she had offered to be “the voice of Somalia to the councils of the world.” But she does not speak Somali, is not a Muslim and is unlikely somehow to approve of female circumcision, which is almost a cultural identifier for that earthly paradise. So, given her linguistic, religious and pharaonic shortcomings, how could she ever be “the voice of Somalia”? Her imperious declaration seemed hilarious, but in fact it was deadly serious: it was a declaration of global intent for the emerging Robinson brand as an all-round Good Legal Egg.

It’s usually said of any Good Legal Egg that s/he is a “human rights lawyer”. Well, until that blessed day when bulls, badgers and bladderwort take legal counsel, all lawyers are human-rights lawyers, in which capacity they argue the rights of their clients, who are invariably human. What usually distinguishes “human rights lawyers” is their ability to charge large fees in “good causes” and to quack duck-billed platitudes in public. So, when President Robinson opened a laundry run by four traveller-women in Coolock in Dublin, she declared that the barriers between settled and traveller peoples could be broken down “if children at school learnt about each other’s communities.”

No doubt some of the settled community had already reached some unsettling conclusions of their own following the revelation that the opening of this tiny laundry had been made possible with the support of all of six groups: Dublin Corporation, FAS, Northside Partnership, Dublin Travellers Education & Development Group, The Jesuit Solidarity Fund and People in Need, for just four women.

A fifth woman, whose job requires the entire country to support it, then left Coolock for her home in the Park, and sometime later, departed for fresh homes and new careers elsewhere. I wonder what became of her.


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