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We have the Ryan report to consider; there is a lot to consider.

What are we to make of the judges of that era? (Strictly the era has not ended; the Ryan Commission had a time period to consider, that period only has ended).

A handy, if not good, place to begin on this, is with Jeremy Bentham.

Bentham said, of “the right to silence”;

If all the criminals of every class, had assembled and framed a system after their own wishes, is not this rule the very first which they would have established for their security? Innocence never takes advantage of it; innocence claims the right of speaking, as guilt invokes the privilege of silence.”

As a matter of fact he was wrong in saying that “innocence never takes advantage of it”, otherwise the practice and procedure of criminal trials in his day would have demonstrated case after case of defendants proving themselves to be innocent, something that did not happen.

He was wrong also to imply that invocation of the “privilege of silence” was a sign of guilt. Determination of guilt was and is the precise purpose of a trial. His opinion implied that the burden of proof should rest on the accused, something civilised nations currently do not admit as reasonable.

In reality, Bentham was on the comfortable side of a power relationship.

He was not the first and will not be the last such person.

Crimes are prosecuted because it suits the person in power to launch the prosecution. Whether that is a proper action depends on the circumstances of the prosecutor as much as the circumstances of the accused.

What, for instance, of Ireland’s political and administrative leaders during the years of the Bush administration in the USA?

(Actually, let us confine the inquiry to the period after the passing of the International Criminal Court Act 2006).

Under Section 8 of the Act of 2006:

Any person who does any act specified in paragraph 3 of Article 25 (crimes ancillary to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes) is guilty of an offence (in this Act referred to as an “ancillary offence”)”

Under Article 25 (3) (c) it is an offence for a person who;

(c) For the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission, including providing the means for its commission;

“War crimes” are defined in Article 8 and include;

Wilfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial;”

That is exactly what George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld did to the prisoners of Guantanamo, as was generally known.

Furthermore, they used Shannon airport to facilitate the transport of some of those prisoners to Guantanamo;

When will we have an investigation of the complicity (or ignorance, if such be the case) of our politicians, particularly our Ministers for Justice etc. during those years, in relation to those matters?


  1. Perhaps the debate concering the right to silence and the analgous “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” arguments concerning privacy and surveilance would be illuminated if the establishment applied the same principles in the areas of Freedom of Information, cabinet confidentiality and corporate donations.

    If it truly felt that silence protects the guilty then the case is closed.

  2. But are we not all guilty of inaction in relation to failure to prosecute ? Of course, the right is limited and arguably unsatisfactory, but every citizen does still have the power to initiate a prosecution.