Margaretta D’Arcy vs the Rule of Law

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Tonight Ireland’s Minister for Justice Alan Shatter declared that it was a “matter of regret” that Margaretta D’Arcy had refused to sign the bond indicating she would not enter the ‘non-public’ areas of Shannon Airport. Shatter spoke against the immediate release of the seriously ill 79 year old, claiming that no-one was above the rule of law, and that the action was necessary to prevent her from encroaching on a runway.

The fact of Margaretta D’Arcy’s incarceration dramatises the fundamental illegitimacy of the “rule of law”. Why did Margaretta D’Arcy refuse to sign the bond undertaking? Because the US war machine uses Shannon Airport. As long as the US war machine mutilates, maims and massacres as it sees fit, the “rule of law” that allows such things to be facilitated in Ireland has no legitimacy. “The law is the law”, I saw an Irish journalist declare the other day, justifying Margaretta D’Arcy’s incarceration with the mating call of absolutist thugs the world over. Such a stance, which is commonplace in Ireland not only among power elites but the population as a whole, is a demonstration of unquestioning obedience to illegitimate power. This is what Margaretta D’Arcy has chosen to confront. The distinction between “public” and “non-public” places, advanced by Alan Shatter, has no legitimacy either, since this distinction is being used to facilitate murder, and is moreover a distinction that the US war machine itself does not recognise.

When Jesus confronts the demoniac in Mark’s gospel, the demon replies “my name is Legion, for we are many”. The “Legion” referred to here can only be the Roman Legion, the force of military occupation in Palestine. We might be inclined to ask what effect the fact of imperial military might in a territory, in this case Shannon Airport in Ireland, can exercise on people’s minds: is it not a form of madness to be not only indifferent to mass murder, but to treat it as part of the normal order of things, as a matter of everyday necessity? If this were only something that a few politicians were involved in, we might have some sort of cause for comfort. But this is something that a large sector of the population -and to be sure, the entire political, media and legal establishment included- views with equanimity, and which the law systematically protects.

In such a scenario, Margaretta D’Arcy’s actions, which the US empire’s political and journalistic flunkies are representing, at best, as feats of tiresome eccentricity and, at worst, as flagrant disrespect for the unquestionable rule of law, appear as an example of what true sanity looks like.

What we now see is how the maintenance of a whole legal and political order goes way beyond the mere criminalisation of protest (as if that were not bad enough) to the point of locking up a 79 year old woman with cancer so that weapons of death and destruction can continue to be unleashed on the poor and defenceless of the world. The only conclusion we can then draw is that this order and those who defend it are rotten to the core. Free Margaretta D’Arcy now!

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