From Socialist Voice, August 2005

The 51st state of the union?

In mid-July the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, and the US Attorney-General signed a “mutual legal assistance instrument.” The provisions of this “mutual” agreement will be contained in the Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Bill, which McDowell is expected to publish in the near future.
    Under the agreement, US investigators, including CIA agents, will be allowed to interrogate Irish citizens, on Irish soil, in total secrecy. This can take place without the Irish state having to be informed that it is happening. Other provisions make the Irish government and the Garda mere messenger-boys for the US Attorney-General’s office.
    The Irish authorities will be required to
• track people down in Ireland
• transfer prisoners in Irish custody to the United States
• carry out searches and seize evidence on behalf of the US government
• allow the US authorities access to the private bank details of any Irish citizen.
    The Irish government must keep all these activities secret. Suspects will have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized—even if what they are accused of is not illegal in Ireland.
    McDowell and the Department of Justice claim that this “instrument of agreement” merely updates existing agreements. But the Mutual Legal Assistance Instrument goes much further than the “Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaty” signed between the European Union and the United States in June 2003. We can only concur with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties when it stated that it was “an appalling signal of how the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the Minister when engaging in international relations.”
    When signing the agreement, McDowell stated that “the international community must do everything it can to combat terrorism with every means at its disposal . . . Ireland will not be found wanting.”
    This agreement between the Irish government and the United States has been made with the current US Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, the man responsible for proposing the notorious “torture memo” to George W. Bush, which set out how far CIA agents can go in torturing prisoners.
    It is now estimated that there are more than 20,000 immigrants in prison in the United States who have been charged with no crime.
    Recently Ed Horgan, a retired Irish Army commandant, requested information about a US military aircraft parked at Shannon for two days, whether the government or the Gardaí had requested information about what the aircraft was doing, and whether it was carrying military weapons. He was stonewalled, and received no reply. Under existing agreements, military equipment is not allowed to be transported through Shannon Airport.
    The government has in effect abandoned its guardianship over Irish citizens’ rights and handed them over to a foreign government. This agreement, coupled with the collaboration in the occupation of Iraq by allowing Shannon Airport to be used by US military aircraft travelling to and from Iraq, has torn up Irish sovereignty and any semblance of an independent foreign policy.
    We are now little more than an appendage of the United States and bear all the hallmarks of a fifty-first state, rather than that of a sovereign nation and people.

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