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Big Brother could well be watching: 30th Amendment Could have paved the way

GEORGE Orwell would have been proud at some of the sentiments expressed over the 30th Amendment. Just like in his laureate novel 1984, the proposal to give oireachtas powers of enquiry was met with concerns and utterances of concern toward proposals of a big brother nature.

As a nation we have been rightly irate and disgusted at the state of proceeding relating to a number of individuals who we considered to have engaged in questionable behaviour whether in relation to finances or otherwise. As such, many expected that this referendum would pass comfortably.

The proposed amendment would have essentially allowed the Dail to bring any individual they wished before any committee of their choosing, on the basis that it would be in the interest of public good for such to occur. The definition of “General Public Importance” is open to many interpretations, as is the rest of the amendment. It also states it shall be for the house to decide which rights of the person can be conferred in such instances, including right to privacy, a fair trial etc.

Before going any further, there is something deeply worrying about this.

It would not be correct for a fleeting second for those carrying out enquiries into the theft of a packet of chewing gum to decide what rights are allowed to the thief. Therefore for a case of much larger magnitude and gravity we shouldn’t have to think twice. It may seem somewhat extreme, but the abuses this system could be left open to is unpredictable. It is upsetting to think a member of oireachtas, could in theory, hold individuals to account in front of a committee for supposed matters of public importance, while in reality an ulterior vendetta or motives may exist.

Such measures are atypical to those found in a totalitarian society. While there is regular cause for concern and comment about the structure of our society, perhaps we have been quite fortunate that it has been far from totalitarian.

I’m quite surprised at the muted concern this has been met with. What’s more, how many individuals ticked “Yes” on polling day without any understanding into the amendment at all? At a very brief summary one may praise such efforts of the government to be seen to be acting in the interests of transparency and investigation when it is really far from it.

If individuals are willing to tick a box for a statement such as the proposed without being fully informed, goodness knows what else could come to fore. Scenes from 1984 or Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We come to mind; shall government attempts to regulate the sex trade or use of technology really seek to allow only one hour of sex a week or have every computer have a webcam centrally monitored by Enda Kenny?

Unlike the terms and conditions you never read, referenda are serious. Next time, read the small print and inform yourself before accidentally signing yourself up for the Ministry of Truth.

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