Civil liberties under fire post 7/7

by the Irish Democrat's Dublin correspondent

THE RIGHT not to be bombed outweighs other rights, said Home Secretary Charles Clarke, as he urged EU politicians to put the fight against terrorism above concern for civil liberties last month.

At a summit in Brussels following the 7 July London bombs, Clarke got swift backing from his fellow EU justice ministers. They set themselves an October deadline to agree a pact forcing telephone and internet companies to store customer data for at least a year for use by police and security services.

There is to be a central EU data base containing records of everyone's emails and phone calls. The idea is that eventually everyone would carry common EU identity cards with their fingerprints and iris scan on it.

It seems Tony Blair's EU presidency will in no way reduce Brussels power over our lives. Rather it consolidates it in a New Labour format, using the cover of terrorism to push the EU's legal power of surveillance over us further, enabling the aspiring EU superstate to keep tabs on all its 'citizens'.

When Mr Clarke addressed an EU parliament committee in Brussels its members complained he was demanding their "blind obedience". They told him that Britain's involvement in Iraq was a cause of the London bombings. They also complained that he had offered no proof that the fight against terrorism would be helped by potentially intrusive measures such as ID cards with biometric data.

The general secretary of Interpol has declared that ID Cards "are not meaningful or significant in the anti-terrorism strategy" and that all terrorists arrested in connection with last year's Madrid railway bombing carried false ID cards.

Asked if the London bombings could have been prevented by the opposed security measures, the Mr Clarke revealed the weakness of his arguments when he replied:

"I've got no doubt CCTV played a role in the investigation. I cannot answer whether biometric ID cards would have made a difference."

The case against identity cards is powerful. They worsen relations between public and police, creating a new category of crime which everyone can be easily guilty of - the crime of not having an ID card or, as in some EU countires, not having it on one's person whenever stopped by a policeman. It gives the police an excuse to stop and question everybody.

Introducing ID cards would cost billions, with citizens expected to meet the costs themselves. Everyone would have to be fingerprinted and have their irises scanned.

Even then, the technology for reading the cards allows a high percentage of mistakes. Civil liberties organisations have condemned ID cards as lunacy. It is another example of EU harmonization.

Irish justice minister Michael McDowell has said that if the British government introduces identity cards, Ireland will do the same. Six county nationalists would have to carry the British ID cards, even though they are opposed to the British State.

Another suggestion is that northern unionists could carry British ID cards and nationalists could carry Irish ones and the British and Irish governments could then swap information on everyone in the two islands.

One republican has critic commented ironically - why not have all Irish citizens carry British ID cards in the first place?

A proper Irish republican government would, of course, tell the British government to go hang. If it wants to impose ID cards on the people of Britain, that's its business, but in no circumstances should they be imposed on Irish citizens of the six counties, whether unionist or nationalist.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-08-20 16:15:58.
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