What Will a Privacy Law Keep Hidden? COMMENT
LIBERTY comes with a condition - eternal vigilance. And the chief instrument of such vigilance in a democracy is a free press. A free press, what's more, with a habit of sticking its nose in places where it is not wanted. That is why the rich and the powerful always dislike the press.
In this country, perhaps even more than in any other Western democracy in recent times, the media has consistently exposed corruption, wrongdoing and downright incompetence in high places that would otherwise almost certainly have gone unnoticed, and unpunished.
The Irish media has repeatedly done what our politicians, gardai, judiciary and financial watchdogs have all singularly failed to do - exposed those who deserved to be exposed.
Without journalists, much of what went on in the Irish banking sector - including, most recently, the details of Michael Fingleton's e27.6million pension and his loan to Celia Larkin - would have been swept under the carpet.
Without journalists, the full extent of the Bertiegate scandal might well never have come to light. Without journalists, the full extent of the planning corruption scandal in Dublin County Council would never have been revealed, Garda corruption in Co. Donegal would only ever have been suspected and the beef industry scandal might well have gone entirely unnoticed.
That is why the concept of a privacy law, raised again by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday, is so alarming - and why it must be resisted at all costs.
Privacy laws, wherever they are, have done nothing for the ordinary men and women they are supposed to protect; instead, they are a shield behind which the rich and powerful can hide.
Of course, individuals have a right to their privacy. That right is enshrined in the Irish Constitution and in the European Convention on Human Rights. But so is the right to freedom of expression.
Mr Ahern's promise yesterday to fasttrack long-awaited reform of our defamation laws is to be welcomed. …