Tag Archives: David Langwallner

From top: Statue of Salzburg-born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, located in the Burggarten in Vienna. In the background the Austrian flag flies above the Austrian National Library; David Langwallner

To My Daughter Lara.

“In those days before the Great War when the events narrated in this book took place, it had not yet become a matter of indifference whether a man lived or died. When one of the livings had been extinguished another did not at once take his place to obliterate him: there was a gap where he had been, and both close and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they became aware of his gap. When fire had eaten away a house from the row of others in a street, the burnt-out space remained long empty. Masons worked slowly and cautiously. Close neighbours and casual passers-by alike, when they saw the empty space, remembered the aspect and walls of the vanished house. That was how things were then. Everything that grew took its time in growing and everything that was destroyed took a long time to be forgotten. And everything that had once existed left its traces so that in those days people lived on memories, just as now they live by the capacity to forget quickly and completely.”

― Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March

“There still exists – even today – a yearning, a nostalgia for European solidarity, a solidarity of European culture. Regrettably, solidarity itself no longer exists, except in hearts, in consciences, in the minds of a few great men at the heart of each nation. European consciousness – or what one might call a ‘cultural European awareness’ – had been on the wane for years ever since the awakening of national identity. You could say that patriotism has killed Europe.”

– Also, Joseph Roth, On the End of the World

I am, of course, half-Austrian and love going to Austria at Christmas, if I can or could and, since now everyone is restricted in movement, the only visit can be a mental one and a feat of remembrance and imagination as the Roth quote from one of the great Austrian novels indicates and presages our awful times of casual forgetfulness and recrudescent chauvinism.

We are all now traveling in our minds and memories, not unlike Mr Proust. Remembering things past.

And I am coming to grips with that aspect of me that has always made me an outsider in Ireland and elsewhere, my Austrian mind; my left foot, in Irish terms.

So, this is obviously, at one level, a personal exploration. Like Lampedusa the Leopard (1959), the established work of Italian literature on times past, the passing of time and that which was lost in a new age. But now a feudal order is asserted quite different to that book which was, at one level, about the transition of Italy to democracy but also the abandonment of tradition.

Well, tradition and civility are now, yet again, being abandoned in a new dark age.

My childhood in Ireland, not unlike that of Hugo Hamilton in his narrative The Speckled People, something I have written hitherto about for Village magazine, involved casual racism and bullying.

My family, that I am close to, are from Salzburg, home of The Fespiele, and Mozart was, of course, born in Salzburg and a little museum in Salzburg glorifies his brief tenure on Earth. Bach aside, Mozart’s music combing lyricism, frivolity, dexterity, and profundity in equal parts is a useful starting point. But what does it say about the human condition is not just chocolate-box fripperies or the texture of lightness that is Eine Kleine Nachtmusik but an understanding of darkness. Darkness threads through the Austrian mind juxtaposed with light.

Thus, of the great operas Cosi Fan Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro are the intrigues and mishaps of sexual dalliances and the rites of spring. A ray of light and an understanding of human frailty. But there are darker themes in a mind of native ambivalence to quote Harold Bloom on Shakespeare and indeed FR Leavis.

Thus, Don Giovanni is about the destructive powers of rakish satanism, also evident in Zweig’s best book beautifully filmed by Max Ophuls’ Letters from an Unknown Women, where a seduced woman writes a letter to a man who has casually forgotten her. So, there is a level of moralism and condemnation in Austrian letters. A good thing and a sense of honour.

In Mozart is the incomparable Magic Flute splendidly rendered in a film by Bergman which, in effect, is about, at one level, the dubious justification of freemasonry which Mozart was but also, at a deeper level and a context of the time, a crier de coeur and assertion of a form of enlightened and tolerant monarchism against the vectors of state and, in particular, church authoritarianisms. Now needed again. The assertion of moderation against extremism. Including though against Freemasons. Indeed, our world is run that way. Corporate freemasons.

The Austrians, in fact, have not universally acclaimed the Catholic Church and a visit to an Austrian church for Sunday service is to experience splendid isolation and admire the architecture. The only good reasons for visiting a church, it might be said. But not necessarily by me.

The great enfant terrible of Austrian letters and its greatest post-war writer Thomas Bernhard was gloriously insulting about religion, though in words I partially endorse.

The Catholic Church is the world poisoner, the world destroyer, the world annihilator, which is the truth.And the Austrians believe in the truth and take it seriously, unlike the gradual decline in that in Ireland. The national psyche of Ireland is a society committed to post-truth, lies and propaganda and willing to accept anything that suits their agenda and to comply.

It must be said that Bernhard had such an ‘against everything’ quality that even the tolerant Austrian homeland banned, censored, or neglected, as well as lauded, him. His masterpiece Woodcutters is about a man in a chair at a party sipping Champagne, letting fly at bourgeoise hypocrisy and is one of the great Austrian books

A flavour of the Bernhard-like attack is the following:

“Everything about you, everything you are, has always been pretence, never genuine, never real.”

In his will, he ordered none of his works be performed in Austria. This has been deliberately avoided. All cultures have their tropes.

In terms of Salzburgian culture, The Merry Widow an exemplar of light operetta, like a jaded ritual, is still performed in The Lehrer Theatre in Bad Ischl and elsewhere. The last nostalgic remnants of modernist European civilisation. But always kitsch and certainly ritualised. And the Austrians do have an ambivalent relationship with kitsch. The Blue Danube is not unlike a classic Britpop song.

Even the great Herman Broch was fascinated by kitsch in a negative way, linking it to a decline in values.

“The maker of kitsch does not create inferior art, he is not an incompetent or a bungler, he cannot be evaluated by aesthetic standards; rather, he is ethically depraved, a criminal willing radical evil. And since it is radical evil that is manifest here, evil per se, forming the absolute negative pole of every value-system, kitsch will always be evil, not just kitsch in art, but kitsch in every value-system that is not an imitation system.”

In fact, in some respects the values vacuum, and the triumph of kitsch paves the way for Nazism as Broch and indeed Robert Musil both identified. Radical evil and kitsch is our age, so they were mystical to see it coming. Camp Fascism as Susan Sontag also identified. Varadkar to Gallagher and back again.

Welcome to Coronavirus Panopticon, you can checkout, but never leave; in fact the over-celebrated Klimt, a disturbed, dependent human being, is kitsch. A kind of postcard and coffee table art for a fundamentally illiterate generation, then and now, so let us not extol Austrian culture universally.

Beethoven was a German but, of course, lived and died in Vienna, raging at a storm it is said so I claim him falsely as an Austrian or at least a Viennese, though the two concepts must be kept separate. His darkness is a counterpart to Mozart. His deafness influences the isolated pessimism of the later atonal dark sonatas and are close to the finality of expression in musical terms that Beckett created in language.

His final string quartet is integral to Dr Faustus by Thomas Mann, where the satanic composer modelled on Heidegger sells his Faustian soul to the devil.

I have found that it must not be. The good and the noble, what they call the human, even though it is good and noble, what men have fought for, have stormed citadels for, and in their moment of fulfilment, have jubilant proclaimed it is not to be. It is not to be, it will be taken back. I will take it back.

Mann, the great German conservative, had the moral integrity to decamp to Switzerland when such ideas took hold, then and now. So, a crucial point to appreciate conservatism is not all bad if it conserves the good and the ethical. Mann is juxtaposed in this respect with Heidegger, also a potential, if not actual, inspiration for Dr Faustus.

The rise of Nazism is anticipated brilliantly in Broch’s The Sleepwalkers one of the great novels of Austrian heritage.

In the character of Hugenau, a man solely motivated by profit and homo economicus, to use the terms of the law and economics movement, we have a real sense in 1918 of a generation so brutal that the seeds of fascism were already there. The book culminates with murder of a journalist and the rape of his wife.

Continue reading →

The Fall (1956) by Albert Camus (top) is a crucial text for lawyers, argues David Langwallner (above)

Now, I have written about Camus before for Broadsheet. But this is in a different tone. The readers of Broadsheet have asked for a clinical piece, so here it is: clinical and theoretical.

The crucial text for all lawyers, in my view, is the French novelist Camus’s The Fall. The crucial man of reason. From his involvement in the French resistance to his controversial comments about the Algerian War, this was not a disengaged man of letters. He, unlike his protagonist in The Fall (1956), was not a hypocrite unlike his erstwhile friends De Beauvoir and Sartre.

Now, the longer political tracts on suicide The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), and the classic expression of his anti-authoritarian resistance mentality and his distrust of bloodletting and extremism The Rebel (1951), say multitudes in his classic French prose style and are crucial to our age. But it is the novels where the legacy rests.

The Plague (1947), of course, has brought Camus right back into focus and I have written about it hitherto, in Counsel magazine, and all it says about our present awful coronavirus times and The Outsider/Étranger (1942) has never been unfashionable and hotly debated by multiculturalists which I have also written about in Cassandra Voices.

Thus, the last published novel The Fall (1956) often gets overlooked, not least in that it is, in a way, monothematic unlike the other texts but that is its force, and it is about a lawyer, so hence clinical practice, and it is masterpiece. I would go so far as to say the greatest short novella of the 20th century; a secular version of St Augustine’s Confessions without the same atonement.

At the outset, to preface the book, Camus quotes Lermontov who said of his own epic A Hero of Our Time (1840) where the Byronic hero Parchorin is a superfluous nihilistic figure.

“It is in fact a portrait, not of an individual; it is the aggregate of the vices of our whole generation in their fullest expression.”

That I think is also what Camus is doing: etching a portrait, far from the flattering, of his generation. Perhaps through a lens darkly of many generations, including ours.

Short, crisp, and precise, the book is a detailed exposition on the lawyer as a professional hypocrite. In the Mexico City bar in Amsterdam, that city of half measures, compromises and ambiguity, both beautiful and repulsive, at once, the home of The Night Watch, the Van Gogh Museum and the drug trade and the red-light district. Thus, Jean Baptiste Clamence regales the assembled multitudes as a self-styled judge penitent and the book concerns one such dialogue, or should it be monologue, to a silent presumably willing listener.

Well, Gambon and John Hurt read Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape beautifully. And that is what it is like, a monologue. Maybe Gambon could be persuaded!

We, the readers, are the passive recipients. Just as to any client in the bar, he introduces himself unctuously at the outset of the book:

‘Monsieur, may I offer my services without running the risk of intruding.’

One is reminded of Uriah Heep and his incantation to be humble as a mask of self-deception.

Or later he describes himself as:

‘A charming Janus and a play actor so very much important in an advocate.’

His view of human society is venal, using the example of the piranha fish. It is, in effect, always a question of who will clean up or eat the other, or worse, or better, still depending on your view, comparing the holocaust to vacuum cleaning and admiring, on a purely professional level, the technique and the diligence. The relevance to our deregulated virus times should not go unnoticed.

The view of human nature in short is not benign. As a Parisian lawyer, the book in the classic, confessional French style highlights his own professional hypocrisy.

Often taking charitable cases to make himself look good. He had, he mulishly self-justifies to the reader, rightness of tone, appropriate emotion, persuasion, and warmth. Restrained indignation. The self-esteem of the putative righteous. F For Fake (1973) as the Welles film, set in the world of art forgery, shows. The art of illusion and fakery. And the book is very much one of Lost Illusions of a fake or a busted flush to use an American vernacular expression.

His representation of the innocent threads through the book, though he ambiguously notes that even those innocent of a crime accused have committed others, a dangerous line of argument often pursued by extremists of a religious or fundamentalist nature. The confusion of sin and criminality.

Clemence (Camus) is caustic about religious maniacs and, in a line, I must remember he argues that their moralising makes their Satanism virtuous. Or at least to them it does. It is a common failing of excessively religious people that they do not see the evil in themselves. I am reminded of several members of The Irish judiciary in that respect.

Clemence at least turns the lenses unsparingly on himself. The book, in an indirect way, reminds me of a recent book by a prosecutor of the Southern District of New York Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment and The Rule of Law which, in the cosmos, I suppose has the moral significance of a Diary of a Nobody by Grossmith, but, no matter, also shows the effect of religious moralism in lawyer-dom with references in abundance to an entity called God.

The book argues that it is not enough that the convicted or soon-to-be convicted criminal be reformed and rehabilitated. It is not enough to admit what we already know. Freedom and absolution require more. You must confess all your sins. Well, that is certainly what Clamence is doing. To all and sundry, without restraint. Perhaps he should be reminded of the right to silence but perhaps not… I am sedulously of the view, at this stage, that the prosecutor mentality, evident also in Valjeart chasing Jean Valgena for the theft of a loaf of bread, is unsuitable for any position of institutional authority.

Jean Baptiste, of course, in his professional career began to look at himself as a delusion ally as a superman but is acutely conscious in hindsight of his own middle-class hypocrisy. In the text, he intimates he did not have, or rather has, no longer friends but accomplices and though he represented the innocent, and they were grateful, it was vanity.

Well, we should all be so reflexive. The reason we are kind to the dead, he argues, is that we owe them no obligation. Well, that is true and an Irish trait that it is the living we should care about which we are not.

The book has remarkably interesting things to say in our post-truth universe about how power determines truth. We are right because we are the powerful and we win.

Thus, our victory determines what is true or not, a dangerous vista in the fascist authoritarian creep that is now evident.

In fact, the protagonist, like the present author, does not like the police. Well, no defence lawyer really does. Clemence, in fact, in an ironic sense, starts to write An Ode to the Police.

The expression of how human society is structured on slavery is also pertinent, albeit slavery with a smile, perhaps a variation of service with a smile, our new corporate feudalism.

Also relevant to our present times, he draws the precise relationship between politics and gangsterism, save that politicians are the gangsters who win. And now it is, of course, corporate and political gangsterdom that rules our universe.

As a self-styled judge penitent, he, of course, now realises and argues that to judge one must first become a penitent. The kind of self-abnegation in the Tridentine and religious maniacs who adorn the Irish profession and trek off to churches in Rome and the Santiago De La Compost walk.

He also elaborates on how judging and condemnation involves crucifixion of a secular and perhaps quasi-religious form. All crucified, all judged. The sea change or the epiphany that leads to self-imposed exile in Amsterdam is his failure to assist a suicide victim who throws herself into the Seine.

Thus, this act of cowardice shows what he is genuinely like, to himself, and not a Good Samaritan and thus off to exile but not before decline. Months of orgy and excess lead to a slippage in the standard of his speeches.

The reference, purely verbal, that I often made to God in my speeches before the court awakened mistrust in my clients. They probably feared that heaven could not represent their interests as well as a lawyer

Though sometimes, it should be said, in a closing speech, God works. Marshall Hall QC at the end of a famous peroration in The Seddon case (1912) representing an old prostitute said:

God did not give her a chance, why do not you?”

And it worked. It often works in Ireland. In God We Trust Inc. But a Hail Mary should not be relied upon at the expense of the scientific and forensic dismantling of the evidence.

Jean Baptiste himself fears, though, the judgment of men not God and regards religion as a huge laundering in the soap sense or indeed money-laundering exercise so evident in mafiosa Catholic countries like Ireland and Italy.

We thus have the lawyer as monster, posing and preening, loquacious and fawning, with avowed but hypocritical good intentions and ostensible and indeed ostentatious charity but, self-serving. It says much for our time and the book concludes with a line worthy of Beckett:

“It’s too late now. It always will be too late. Unfortunately.”

Though Beckett, it should be said, might have said, fortunately. Thus, in 90-odd pages, the lawyer as demon is captured perfectly and the deep-seated hypocrisy of the profession exposed.

There is a certain family resemblance to elements of the Irish profession and the transgression of professional boundaries which allows and permits and endorses public servant barristers to do corporate nixers to serve the agenda of non-public service.

Thus, we should be self-reflexive, but it would be wrong to transliterate this to Mr Camus. He was the opposite. A just man.

But, in our present universe, are we more Jeans Baptise than Camus. That is the problem which Camus fully understood relevant then and now. Thus shallowness, ambition and fraudulence are matters that all lawyers should take account of and turn the lenses on themselves. Many prosecutors are peculiarly incapable of this.

Standards have fallen of the cliff. Worldwide and the narrow sliver that holds the platinum chip standard of justice, the English profession visibly creaking at the edges with the Jean Baptistes worldwide in the ascendant.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner



From top: the Citywest vaccination centre; David Langwallner

Now, you remember children how I told you last Sunday about the good Lord going up into the mountain and talking to the people. And how he said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’ And how he said that King Solomon in all his glory was not as beautiful as the lilies of the field. And I know you won’t forget, ‘Judge not lest you be judged,’ because I explained that to you. And then the good Lord went on to say, ‘Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.’

Lillian Gish in Charles Laughton’s The Night of The Hunter.

On the question of vaccination? Even framing the question that way, in terms of a title, is a reference to a grand tradition of Belles-lettres and has more sinister connotations, none of which I endorse. The question must be resolved by reason, moderation, and argument.

The crucial issue of our woe begotten age has become the taking of a vaccine.

Even to state it thus is to recognise implicitly the decadence and degradation of this dark age. Lives reduced. The binary debate between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers is another example, yet again, of our fraught and divisive times. Our age of tribalism and extremism, where all reason is lost.

Let us try and introduce some complexity and nuance into the discussion, some moderation, and put matters in a socio-political context.

First, one does not have to believe or accept that the vaccine is some slow-burning poison to liquidate people or enforce Malthusian population control in increments, as some do, to doubt its utility.

Quite apart from the side-effects, in terms of blood clots, there is the ineffectiveness of those double vaccinated against variants, with variants to come in a contaminated world.

There is also the fact, in the light of escalated admissions to Israeli hospitals, among others, of the double vaccinated to lead to a measure of scepticism as to, at the very least, the effectiveness of the vaccine apart from other considerations.

The UK are totally split – the innate libertarianism of the Tories evident in Michael Gove’s divertissement into Aberdeen nightclubs, off set against the advice of the scientists and perhaps the economists.

The Americans are not split and, in a ludicrous form of liberal Stalinism, Biden suggests employability is dependent on the vaccine.

Be careful about what you wish for, children.

There are also questions of admissibility and safe passage, or autonomy and choice, in all of this. Must the exercise of choice, however misguided, be punitively sanctioned by refusing a person entry to a particular establishment, a workplace or indeed a travel restriction?

Does the state have the power to enforce this and, the next step, the power to force people to be vaccinated or, even more so, quarantine them for not being vaccinated?

Within the structure and morphology of the argument involving vaccine passports, one should also not be oblivious to just the fact of the restriction of travel and movement but also the amount of data that might be retained in vaccine passports.

This is, as Zuboff references, in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and data mining. In a twist of fate, in all this, the American corporation Polenta, with a GNP greater than Greece, sold vaccines to the Greeks in return for access to data.

Wake up, children of the sun, and smell the coffee beans.

In effect, not to see that an act of God or an act of man has enhanced, in the most draconian way, a new anti-human rights universe where choice, autonomy, liberty is being controlled by ever more draconian laws, is to fail to understand the obvious. It is also to fail to understand a culture of amorality and transhumanism.

Now I am a lawyer, and I am surprised and astonished that there has been limited outcry from within the profession and a limited presentation and understanding of the issues.

The core legal right in question is Privacy. Though other rights are relevant.

Forgive me, children of the snowflake, but you must understand the detail. The devil is in the detail.

The right to privacy is one of the unenumerated personal rights in the Irish Constitution and it historically emanated from a piece the legendary American judge Louis Brandeis wrote when his wife was being monitored by the press, the right to be left alone or the right to privacy. (1903)

In Ireland, a version of this right was recognised in McGee v. Attorney General [1974] IR 284, when most of the Supreme Court identified a right to marital privacy. The Court also held that that right was being unjustly infringed by acts, which prevented the plaintiff from importing contraceptives. The Court was impressed by the “universal” nature of the right to privacy – a right which was subject only to rare exceptions.

It is worth noting that, in the United States, a similar case eventually led to the legalisation of abortion. In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) 381 US 479, the United States Supreme Court held that the right to privacy rendered invalid a law denying married people access to contraceptives. This was subsequently broadened in Roe v. Wade (1973) 410 US 113 to invalidate many statutory restrictions on abortion.

Restrictions on privacy were recognised in Norris v. Attorney General [1984] IR 36, where the plaintiff argued that such a right existed, and that it was breached by the operation of several pre-1937 provisions whose sections criminalised homosexual acts between males, regardless of age or consent.

O’Higgins CJ appeared to accept that a general right to privacy did indeed exist. However, the Chief Justice was also of the view that a right to privacy did not exclude the State from “the field of private morality”; rather, the State had a keen interest in the moral well-being of society and could “discourage conduct which is morally wrong and harmful to a way of life and to values which the State wishes to protect” (at p 64).

The majority were also concerned by public health issues (specifically sexually transmitted diseases), and the fact that homosexuality could be regarded as an attack on the institution of marriage. The “right to be let alone” (a phrase coined in the United States) could not override the common good as protected by the legislative provisions, the judge opined.

Well, such an opinion was dangerous then and even more dangerous now, children of the sun.

Strong dissents were delivered by McCarthy and Henchy JJ. Neither judge could find good reason for the State to intervene in the plaintiff’s private life in the manner permitted under the provisions. In their view, the State had failed to discharge the onus of showing that the maintenance of public order and morality outweighed the plaintiff’s right to privacy – a right that was recognised by both judges.

“There are many other aspects of the right… [which] would all appear to fall within a secluded area of activity or non-activity, which may be claimed, as necessary for the expression of an individual personality, meriting recognition in cases, which do not endanger considerations such as State security, public order or morality, or other essential components of the common good.” (Per Henchy J, at p 71.)

A subsequent challenge to the legislation, also based on the right to privacy, succeeded in the European Court of Human Rights: Norris v. Ireland (1989) 13 EHRR 186.

It might also be noted that the United States Supreme Court, having initially rejected any right to privacy that could protect the right to engage in sodomy (later accepted that the right to privacy had been violated by a Texan law allowing for the prosecution and conviction of a man who had been having consensual sex with another man in the privacy of his home: Lawrence v. Texas 539 US 558 (2003) 41 S W 3d 349.

The right to privacy has, in some jurisdictions, been linked with the right to die, children of the sun.

In Ireland, the issue of withdrawing medical treatment arose in In Re a Ward of Court (withholding medical treatment) (No 2) [1996] 2 IR 79.

The Ward had been left in a persistent vegetative state, following an operation and was being fed through a nasal gastric tube. She was mentally incapacitated and could not refuse medical treatment herself or give any indication as to her wishes.

However, the four members of the Supreme Court majority held that patients had a right to refuse medical treatment. Such a right may be seen as related to the rights to privacy and to bodily integrity. In the circumstances of the case, the majority accepted that feeding of the Ward could be withdrawn, while observing that the right to die a natural and dignified death might be seen as the corollary of the right to life.

However, the Court was careful to emphasise that there was no right to have death accelerated, or life terminated. In other words, neither the right to privacy, nor any other constitutional right, would appear to include a right to be “euthanized”.

Hamilton CJ was careful to stress that the Ward’s rights “[did] not include the right to have life terminated or death accelerated and is confined to the natural process of dying. No person has the right to terminate or to have terminated his or her life, or to accelerate or have accelerated his or her death.”

The view of the United States Supreme Court in Washington v. Glucksberg 521 US 702 (1997) is illustrative of this point.

In that case, Glucksberg (a doctor) and others (including three terminally ill patients) challenged Washington State’s ban on assisted suicide. The Supreme Court examined the many reasons for the ban, which included the protection of patients from medical malpractice and the ending of lives due to financial or psychological problems.

The practice was traditionally frowned upon and was still banned in most States. Furthermore, liberty interests which were not “deeply rooted in the nation’s history” did not qualify for protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court concluded that “the asserted ‘right’ to assistance in committing suicide is not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the due process clause”.

The Court had been impressed by the rational connection between the ban on assisted suicide and the interests of the State. These included the State’s “unqualified interest in the preservation of human life”, which was reflected in all homicide laws. Furthermore, suicide was a public health issue which particularly affected vulnerable persons and groups.

The State had an interest in protecting vulnerable groups (including the poor, the elderly, the terminally ill and the disabled) from abuse, neglect, and mistakes; the legalisation of assisted suicide might have lead such people to take that option to spare their families a financial burden. The State could legitimately attempt to preserve such people from coercion and “societal indifference”.

Furthermore, the State also had an interest in preserving medical ethics and the integrity of the medical profession.

Finally, there was a legitimate fear that the permission of assisted suicide could eventually lead to voluntary, and even involuntary, euthanasia.

In the English case of R (Purdy) v. Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] UKHL 45; [2010] 1 AC 345, the House of Lords recently ordered the respondent to promulgate a policy identifying the facts and circumstances that he would consider in considering whether to prosecute persons, such as the claimant’s husband, for aiding and abetting an assisted suicide abroad.

In the Irish case of Fleming v. Ireland & Ors [2013] IEHC 2, the High Court at last considered these delicate matters. This landmark case concerned a 58-year-old woman suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis who was completely dependent on others and virtually immobile. The plaintiff wanted to die and needed assistance to do so.

The Divisional Irish High Court (following Rehnquist CJ in Washington v. Glucksberg) held:

“[T]here is a real and defining difference between a competent adult patient making the decision not to continue medical treatment on the one hand – even if death is the natural, imminent, and foreseeable consequence of that decision – and the taking of active steps by another to bring about the end of that life of the other. The former generally involves the passive acceptance of the natural process of dying, a fate that will ultimately confront us all, whereas the latter involves the active ending of the life of another – a totally different matter.”

The court expressed several other concerns about the practice of euthanasia from an analysis of expert evidence heard by it:

– “Cases of wrongful diagnosis of terminal illness are not unknown.”

– “It is impossible to predict with accuracy the duration and course of a terminal illness. A patient who is told by his or her clinician that his or her demise was measured in weeks might well have a different view of physician-assisted suicide if it were ultimately to transpire that he or she could live for another year or more.”

– “The definition of what pain is intolerable may vary from person to person and does not easily lend itself to objective assessment.”

– The court expressed concern for vulnerable groups, a point as we shall see that pervades the judgement.

– That certain categories of patients, with no visible signs of depression or other mental health issues, and who did not belong to any of the traditional categories of vulnerable groups, would place themselves under pressure to hasten their death in this fashion in a subtle manner that might often elude detection such as they might be a burden on their family.

After assessing the evidence of various experts, some of which the Court found more impressive than others, the Court concluded:

“The Court finds that the State has provided an ample evidential basis to support the view that any relaxation of the ban on assisted suicide would be impossible to tailor to individual cases and would be inimical to the public interest in protecting the most vulnerable members of society.”

The court noted that any other conclusion would compromise, perhaps fundamentally, the protection of human life and dignity and that:

“It might well send out a subliminal message to vulnerable groups – such as the disabled and the elderly – that to avoid consuming scarce resources in an era of shrinking public funds for health care, physician-assisted suicide is a “normal” option which any rational patient, faced with terminal or degenerative illness, should seriously consider.”

The High Court rejected a recent Canadian case Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) [2012] BCSC 886 which had recognised euthanasia, on the basis that the case did not sufficiently disentangle the difference between compelling someone to have medical treatment (which is constitutionally forbidden) and active participation by another in the intentional killing of another, which even if genuinely and freely accepted could never be condoned.

The High Court also suggested that that the Canadian court’s assessment minimised the risks in other jurisdictions which have physician-assisted suicide. The High Court, by contrast, found that the incidence of legally assisted death without explicit request in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland is strikingly high and that the burden on the family caused by illness was one of the reasons advanced.

The Supreme Court indicated that:

“Nothing in this judgment should be taken as necessarily implying that it would not be open to the State, if the Oireachtas were satisfied those measures with appropriate safeguards could be introduced, to legislate to deal with a case such as that of the appellant. If such legislation was introduced, it would be for the courts to determine whether the balancing by the Oireachtas of any legitimate concerns was within the boundaries of what was constitutionally permissible. Any such consideration would, necessarily, have to pay appropriate regard to the assessment made by the Oireachtas both of any competing interests and the practicability of any measures thus introduced.”

On the substantive issue, the essence of the Supreme Court judgment is contained in the following passage finding against the plaintiff/appellant:

“The protection of the right to life cannot necessarily or logically entail a right, which the State must also respect and vindicate, to terminate that life or have it terminated. In the social order contemplated by the Constitution, and the values reflected in it, that would be the antithesis of the right rather than the logical consequence of it. Thus, insofar as the Constitution, in the rights it guarantees, embodies the values of autonomy and dignity and more importantly the rights in which they find expression, do not extend to a right of assisted suicide. Accordingly, the Court concludes that there is no constitutional right which the State, including the courts, must protect and vindicate, either to commit suicide, or to arrange for the termination of one’s life at a time of one’s choosing.”

A related issue is whether one might be obliged to undergo life-saving medical treatment, in direct contravention of one’s wishes or religious beliefs.

In Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street v. CD and EF [2011] IEHC 1 (“the Baby AB case”) Hogan J, in assessing an earlier case called Fitzpatrick, stated that:

“It probably suffices for present purposes simply to say that the right of a properly informed adult with full capacity to refuse medical treatment – whether for religious or other reasons – is constitutionally protected: see, e.g., Fitzpatrick v. FK (No.2) [2008] IEHC 104, [2009] 2 I.R. 7.”

In Northwestern Health Board v. W [2001] 3 IR 622 – “Baby Paul case”, the question at issue related to the PKU ‘heel prick’ test, which is carried out on babies when born. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the parents of a 14-month-old child could be required by the court to permit the hospital to conduct the test on the child.

The majority of the Supreme Court found that in certain exceptional circumstances arising from a “failure of duty” by the parents, the State could be justified in overriding the wishes of the parents.

To allow the State to intervene, in less than exceptional circumstances, would permit the involvement of the State in the “micro-management of the family”. This would not be desirable:

“That would give the State a general power of intervention and would risk introducing a method of social control in which the State or its agencies would be substituted for the family. That would be an infringement of liberties guaranteed to the family. Decisions which are sometimes taken by parents concerning their children may be a source of discomfort or even distress to the rational and objective bystander, but it seems to me that there must be something exceptional arising from a failure of duty … before the State can intervene in the interest of the individual child.” (per Denham J).

Hardiman noticeably agreed and, in that intuitive way of his, pointed out to me at an Innocence Project reception that my views were wrong.

I entirely agree he was right about this. The darling wee man. Though not right about everything, I think he would share my outrage, as to what is now happening.

So, the Irish Courts, the Canadian Courts, the EU Courts, the American Courts have all considered this issue. Among others, and in formal legal terms, the conclusions are clear enough.

The privacy right can only be exceptionally interfered with and the only justification of state coercion in public order terms, in the context of the virus, is public health. But of course, that argument must be met with whether and to what extent the interventions are measured and proportionate and for that matter the extent of the crisis or ongoing crisis.

Parents choosing for their children to have or not to have vaccine should not be condemned as irresponsible per se. Whether that choice is religious, familial or in terms of an assessment of the inconclusive literature, their choices, both for themselves and their offspring, should be respected.

It is noticeable how the judiciary collectively and intra-jurisdictionally were very reluctant to interfere in life-or-death decisions, not least abortion or euthanasia and I think they were probably prudential in this respect. That said, some of such matters are now governed by legislation and be careful what you wish for an indeed have voted for.

A related issue also subsumed within the privacy right is data retention.

In Digital Rights Ireland Ltd (C-293/12) v. Minister for Communications, the European Court of Justice declared the EU Data Retention Directive to be invalid. The Directive required Irish mobile operators to log details about users’ locations, emails, text messages and internet usage.

The ECJ opined that the said the Directive “interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of data”. Furthermore, the Court found that data retention under the Directive “entails an interference with the fundamental rights of practically the entire European population”.

The Court noted that the data to be retained made it possible (1) to know the identity of the person with whom a subscriber or registered user has communicated and by what means, (2) to identify the time of the communication as well as the place from which that communication took place and (3) to know the frequency of the communications of the subscriber or registered user with certain persons during a given period.

That data, taken as a whole, had the potential to provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data was retained, such as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, activities carried out, social relationships and the social environments frequented.

The Court took the view that, by requiring the retention of that data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access that data, the Directive interfered in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.

So, the retention of data invokes privacy considerations as does the vaccine passports.

There is a collective dehumanisation or transhumanist demonisation going on. It is almost as if our politicians of all hues are figures in Dostoevsky the Devils where nihilism becomes transcendent and worldwide the beginning of a project to create a bought corporate fascist state or rather a global internment. Safe in your remote spaces. Depoliticised, disengaged and exploited.

And let us not be too optimistic about the judiciary as their ability to protect people closes.

In the great Nobelist Portuguese writer Jose Saramago book Blindness (1992), he anticipates our collective present predicament where blindness becomes a communicable disease and an epidemic. The effect is escalating panic.

Individuals are quarantined and dehumanised. The concepts of fairness and the rule of law disintegrate. Inept authorities run wild. Asylums are created for those quarantined.

Possibly the greatest Irishman Swift in “A Modest Proposal”, (1729) a crucial text for these dangerous times, argues ironically and satirically for the killing and eating of babies as a way of solving the surplus population of Ireland the implicit argument being that, rather than hell on earth and death by attrition, the short solution is the best. Infanticide coupled with abortion as a method of population control.

Now Swift, the great polemicist and humanitarian, was appalled at Ireland then, as I am now. Now our surplus population and children are put into foster care or dumped on the street.

Bankruptcies and evictions controlled by a new form of Malthusian capitalism except now transnational creating a segmented and divided society. A society of them and us. An unbalanced division. With farmers writing suicide notes for their children as the banks foreclose. And just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, the courts do nothing.

Worse than nothing, they augment and contribute to the problem by upholding the activities of vulture funds and worse again venerate the success of debt collection barristers. An inverse universe the veneration of infamy.

Japan is relevant in this context as part of that culture has always tolerated the other life violation that stokes the ire of right-wing conservatives and that is euthanasia as a way of disposing of those who are no longer useful and productive members of society.

So in the film “The Ballad of Narayana” (Imamura 1983), the elderly person goes to the mountain place to die. She is surplus and that, of course, is true in Ireland now. The side-lining and insidious disposal of the elderly. The exporting or marginalising of those that are not one of us.

And how much of this is real or not? How much ineptitude or deliberation? Well, children of the sun, in the kingdom of the blind man, the one man is king. Be sceptical and invoke your rights. These paltry sheds of paper may be all you have left.

So, resist attempts at compulsory vaccination for you and your children, understand side-effects and be sceptical about an agenda that is profiting big pharma.

Children of the sun, awake snowflakes, from your slumber.

Which is not to say there is not a public health crisis but whether it is limited to covid or the societal effects of same, I am unclear.

Read Seneca, children of the sun, and then prepare for action and do not worship false gods, religious or secular.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: The Rolling Stones in 1968;  David Langwallner

These are troubled times, and many have accused my columns of being dark. What is the solution in our awful times to appease the savage beasties?

Well, music helps.

So, allow me a few personal recommendations.

If you are committed to a stressful job or coping with the dehumanisation of unemployment and deprivation, how do you turn off. What should you listen to?

Well, the greatest rock song ever written is, in my view, Sympathy for The Devil by The Rolling Stones and it is far from relaxing, but appropriate to our times.  More of it later but I would suggest it should be listened to before the relaxants or after as an antidote. Let us not be soporific. Let us confront the gorgons head!

Now, although he did not apply it to his own fraught life, Glenn Gould was the greatest improviser of Bach and, despite conventional and absurdist critics, the greatest interpreter of Bach. My first recommendation thus is to listen to his Well-Tempered Clavier and then the Partitas and then the Goldberg Variations.  They have been put into outer space as exemplars of our civilization as was, so perhaps you should give it a try.

Bach is in general restful in a secular way and the religious dimension can be transliterated to the contemplation of insignificance and eternity. Cosmic insignificance and not just Gould’s interpretations. The Cantatas are the great works of western civilization.

Mozart, as an Austrian (a deliberate emphasis on my behalf) is a complex case and one would not recommend Don Giovanni for easy listening. Chocolate box aside much of the orchestral music soothes and Cosi and indeed Figaro help. The incandescent The Magic Flute is one of the great works of western civilisation and, although influenced by freemasonry, a crucial work of our Manichean times where music has the power to transcend human fear and through tasks, we acquire goodness.

Now I dislike muzak or packaged new age relaxation. It is synthetic so let me try a few others in music terms. Entirely up to you. Non classical.

Sinatra matters and the great ballads of the Capitol Records period including and above else In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning. He is the greatest of all baritones in any field in my view. So does much other jazz, a neglected art form. Now there is jazz light and there is John Coltrane. I will separately write a piece about that genius hopefully. Mostly dark. Not light. Not suitable for comfort.

So, I suggest in jazz light terms the great Django Reinhart and above all else Shine and Nuages .  Louis Armstrong, I favour Potato Head Blues. Dame Ella singing the great American Songbook is recommended but not the great Dylan’s mangling of same in recent albums, far too dark, but the great Charlie Parker has an effervescent quality as does earlier Coltrane.

The latter, one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, did produce in light terms, My Favourite Things and The Blue Train and Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. which is I think more Coltrane than Davis. Nina Simona is a little soporific. And the darkness of Billie Holiday should be mediated through Them There Eyes, a song of utter lightness and gaiety at great disparity to her life.

The greatest jazz artist of utter relaxation is the pianist Thelonious Monk and, with Glenn Gould, the greatest pianist in my view, thus Misterioso or Round Midnight. Though perhaps, in contemporary terms, Keith Jarret also helps –  in The Koln Concert, Vienna and Milan concerts,  Jarret is the great improvisational jazz genius of our times.

As far as kitsch is concerned, we come to Andrew Lloyd Webber. Music of the Night is tremulous and one of the great British songs from a genius of the light.  A pre-Raphaelite extension. A boule de suit and a truffle but curiously relevant.

Bernard Shaw despised opera but wrongly so. To hear Jussie Björling, sing La Donna Mobile is to hear one of the great artefacts of 20th century culture  or, in present times, Cecilia Bartoli sing Leschi a Panga is to listen to contemporary absolute greatness. The great mezzo soprano of our times.

Callas, of course. The great flawed voice and such songs as Caste Diva or  La Wally cut to the absolute core of human existence.  The classical voices of pain and abuse. The imperfections are irrelevant to the songbird.

Which leads us to Edith Piaf, a life as awful as Callas’ perhaps with even greater abuse,  but to hear La Vie En Rose is to hear one of the greatest songs ever written by a great interpreter even if self-destructive.

But she is not the greatest French singer and, bar Mr. Dylan and even then co equally, the greatest singer songwriter of all time is Mr. Brel and his songs of the frustrations and disappointments of the middle class as well as his great declarations of love such as Madeleine as well as the contemplation of time and the reflection of the human merry go round circus that is la Valse a Mile Temps.

One should avoid, in my view, soporific rock, but the following can be recommended without equivocation. Dylan Love minus Zero, Mr. Tambourine Man, Lay Lady Lay, Most of the Time, Shelter from the Storm and indeed all of Blonde on Blonde. Though not late Dylan. Like all great artists,  lateness is darkness, though Key West on the present great album is worth a gentle, wistful listen.

Cohen’s earlier songs have romantic chocolate box uniformity, but some find them appealing. The later songs are not ones to listen to us if one wants to relax but Going Home has a certain autumnal clarity.

The greatest soul singers are Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, and Otis. Try a Little Tenderness by Otis cannot not be improved upon nor his My Girl, a much better version than Smokey Robinson’s.

As far as the king of cool, Mr. Burt Bacharach, a much-maligned person, we have I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha, one of the greatest and most inspirational work songs ever written. In fact, a model for living  if dangerously compliant.

Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye is also important, but be wary should you have a Christian pastor father. Abba lift the spirits as does the eccentric part of the Beatles canon. To listen to Octopus Garden, Yellow Submarine or McCartney’s Martha My Dear is to  enter a world of dream dotty land English goodness. Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun is one of the great songs as of course is My Sweet Lord.

The greatest living Englishman, in my view, is Ray Davies. And his greatest songs are all wonderful. A Dedicated Follower of Fashion is my favourite, but Waterloo Sunset relaxes entirely and says something profound about England. In fact, it is the quintessential English song as you walk over that bridge as I do perhaps three times a week at dusk one sees what he is saying about this great but flawed country.

The greatest dead Englishman, Mr. Bowie, has produced many works of jaw-dropping wonder but to listen to Kooks and Hunky Dory is to understand all the comforts, oddities and quiddities and genius England has to offer. His electronica offerings are also of value and Wild is the Wind on Station To Station a masterpiece.

But, as one reader of Broadsheet remarked, I can be an elitist, and some doubt my Irishness, so let us be irocentric. Van Morrison’s Summertime in England as a replicant remembrance of things past.

So, to my final list.

Not Dark Yet, Murder Most Foul and Hurricane by Dylan
Don Giovanni by Mozart.
Old Ideas by Cohen. Also, Democracy and the Future.
A Day in the Life by The Beatles. our alienated universe
You Do not Miss Your Water by Otis. Racism abounds,
MS Otis Regrets or Strange Fruit by Bily and Ella. Racism abounds again.
Sinatra One for my Baby or Autumn of my Years. Drowning in dissolution and tears.

And lastly those great satanic masters of observation The Rolling Stones what better than Sympathy for the Devil. The most unsettling rock song ever and the most appropriate for our dark times. Odd That Sir Michael is more appropriate than Bach. For the devil now is fascism, murder, satanism in all its religious and non religious guises, tribalism, neoliberalism. and greed.

Though one should relax.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: Bill Gates with President Michael D Higgins in Aras an Uachtarain in 2013; David Langwallner

There has been a recent proliferation of books, papers, articles and broadcasts about the political and social malaises we are facing – unprecedented in human history or at least since the 1930s. There is a significant level of repetition and overlap between these disaster apocalypse texts, the overarching themes of which are the following:

– humanity is on the brink of economic and environmental collapse and potential extinction by increments exacerbated by this pandemic and future pandemics to come;

– travel is to be a thing of the past or restricted; and

– the world in which we live is to be a no-work no-support lockdown or stop-start universe with scarcity of opportunity and serf or Chinese capitalism at best for most.

Given this deluge of material what more is to left to say – why one more short or medium essay?

Well, dear reader, if there is to be one more the apologia and justification for this epistle is that it brings all the themes together and identifies in a legalistic yet easily digestible coffee-read fashion the precise person that all ills can be traced back to – the precise if somewhat opaque criminal entity that has caused all of this.

The Case Against Bill Gates.

Let us address the particulars then:

1: Our age of spin and disinformation has morphed into a post-truth universe where the untruth is given excessive audience or hearing and lies and propaganda are accepted or inadequately or inconclusively rebutted. The utilisation of propaganda, advertising, sound bites, and the manipulation of people by targeting and messaging emanating from Cambridge Analytica has destroyed our public discourse. People are being commodified and objectified and targeted as passive nodal consumers or receptors of disinformation. Human personality is being readjusted towards plasticity and falsity. Relativism and alternative realities abound. This artificial truth and information is creating artificial humans. Genuine people are being replaced by artificial people and artificial intelligence – replicants or indeed a kind of zombie, or both. And Gates is partially to blame as Microsoft by stages led to the veneration of tech and numbers, blandness and the unregulated wild west of the Internet that has created the platform for the new post-truth universe. All roads lead to Bill.

2: Neoliberalism, an American adoption via an Austrian economist Hayek, has led to the cartelisation of the world, with a small minority controlling most of the assets so as to blur to non-existence the distinction between working and middle class. Privatisation, deregulation, oligarchical and corporate control as well as the rewarding of human identity to homo economicus has corroded the fabric of life and coarsened human interaction. It has also destroyed pension entitlements, health care rights and the social safety net. Insidiously it has led to the rise of fascism and America has led the triumphalist Trumpian march or should that be Gatesian Corporate march. For the new form of feudal capitalism makes Gates ever the richer and ever the more dangerous with the vaccine rights in his pocket. Gates dispenses largesse to humanity and seeks to turn us all into cleansed corporate serfs with appropriate vaccines which we pay for.

3: There is indeed now a cacophony of voices asserting that we are at the dawn of a new fascist or corporate fascist mercantile age. Those among the ruling elite of the world who have perspective and a historical sensibility such as Madeleine Albright are acutely conscious that the extreme right and neo-conservatism has gained not just traction and control but is becoming all powerful. Yes, it is fascism but what type of fascism is the more appropriate question? Well, it is a synergy between faceless corporate control manipulating a compliant and often failed state, failed states worldwide, the repression of civil liberties and the degradation of human rights where state criminality is given a free license and where tactics of surveillance, fabricated allegations and state sponsored murder have become de rigeur. It also accepts entropy and non-support of superfluous people and neglects their basic survivability. Politicians are puppets and the puppet master – he who pulls the purse strings through entities such as the Gates foundation.

4: The culture of celebrity and soundbites and infotainment has destroyed public discourse and provided a palliative distraction of bread and circuses as far more sinister matters are not reported or discussed or are occluded from public visage gaze and scrutiny. Politics in effect as the Trump-Clinton debates showed has become the Jerry Springer show. It is now part of the infotainment industry, with celebrities like Gates given far too much coverage for their ludicrous views, and far too much credence based on their ill-gotten gains.

5: Education has become an industry, achieving limited employment goals and frankly not providing education but producing arcane specialists and technocrats, with a misplaced focus on sentiments, feelings and all pervasive soft focus woolliness to the detriment of hard data. Students are encouraged to focus on self and self-validation and on lifestyle choices rather than what Camus called engagement. The Americanisation of education and the expurgation of fearless criticism to protect our snowflake generation are producing, with some exceptions, a population ripe for exploitation. Be merry and libertarian for your noncritical college career and then be exploited for the rest of your life through precarious short-term contracts, student loans, permanent renting, overwork, meaningless exchanges of sentiments and a false sense of belonging in corporate cultures or on the web as detailed in ‘The Circle’ parodied by David Eggers and modelled on Microsoft and Apple.

6: The rise of family values and religious fundamentalism intrinsic to neo-conservative thinking and now with the new Trumpian appointment of a seven-times mother, gun toting and approving, no doubt, anti-abortionist devout Catholic Amy Coney we have reached the nadir or apotheosis of absurdity. Neo-cons scapegoat Islam but do not turn the lenses on themselves, with many conservative extremists looking forward to the end of days where the righteous will be judged and unrighteous shot or interned, neglecting of course to recognise that they collectively by their rapacious greed have caused all this mess in the first place. The good old boys and girls, the rednecks and the bang for the buck merchants. The hillbilly elegy that worked its way up to the dizzying heights of Goldman Sachs or Microsoft. Take a bow Bill. Bow wow wow. You may consider yourself an altruist but your endorsement of free market neo-liberalism has pandered to all of this. And the Democrats are no different.

 The costing of everything has destroyed the social fabric and precipitated economic and environmental collapse. All human activity converted into the wealth maximisation criteria. Homo Economicus. It is also the cult of scientificism, the dock devoid of moral conscience that is in the dock. Just as listening to Niall Ferguson in Imperial College one should realise; he is funded by the Gates Foundation. Scientific objectivity that is Decisionist, as Habermas would term it, is devoid of a moral compass.

So, these are the themes of the industry of apocalypse and millenarian self-destruction linked to Americana with the counterpoint of a rather soapy counter active optimism leading to a plethora of self-help books or rules for life and survival in the 21st century.

It is almost as if we have entered the parable millenarian universe of Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘The Road’ (2006) and are struggling for survival in an all-consuming neo-liberal holocaust. Survival skills are personalised and individualistic and involve disentanglement from the body polity and the corporate vectors of control. If not, you become part of the problem – earning for your keep singing to your sponsors for your supper without having the temerity of Oliver Twist to ask for more, retreating into your gated enclosures to take your medication, testing, ever more vaccines, and restriction of liberties, without causing any fuss. In other words, a sheep.

How do you indict in the face of a sleepwalking consensus and how do you particularise those responsible? You cannot indict everybody, but I think some clarity can be imposed with the indictment of a specific even amorphous entity.

Robertson QC titled a book “The Case Against the Pope” (2010) and Hitchens attacked Henry Kissinger in his “Trial of Henry Kissinger” (2001). Kissinger is of course a person (or at least ostensibly so) and thus subject to universal jurisdiction, but is part of the military industrial complex and the Pope fronts a business called Catholicism or as I think it should be termed “In God We Trust Inc” responsible for much of the evil of the world.

There is accordingly journalistic precedent for constructing a generic indictment that is not just individual focused, but entity focused – perhaps not an indictment that would be recognised in the law courts, but one which may be recognised in the court of public opinion – or at least the court of civilised values and intelligent non prejudicial thinking. A court awaiting a class action.

How do You Plead Mr Gates?

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: Nazi General Edwin Rommel (at left); David Langwallner

Philosopher Isaiah Berlin‘s famous parable or table top discussion, ‘The Hedgehog and The Fox‘ (1953) is about different forms of intelligence. The Hedgehog knows one big thing, the fox many things. Perhaps the ideal human intelligence ought to combine both?

I have always been fascinated by the ‘Desert Fox’,  Erwin Rommel. The reasons are obvious in my case. I have always been a Junker at one level but never quite a member of the establishment. I endorse the remark of Groucho Marx that one should never be a member of a club that would have one as its member. I also have an innate sympathy with the underdog and he was certainly in that position in the impossible war of The Afrika Corps. The man who won against impossible odds. A far better general than Montgomery.

Now, all judgments at one level must be context-specific. So, the negative. He was a National Socialist and a card-carrying member of the Nazi party. He was also a German General and initially very close to Hitler. He was a military man and, described by Desmond Young in his definitive biography,  the perfect fighting animal. It is quite clear that he was a great military strategist, resourceful, winning against odds and brilliant in the game of bluff and counter-bluff.

The relationship between the Anglo-Saxon and Germanic race has always been complicated. Similar Hapsburgian blood in their royal families, thickened by dynastic and familial inter breeding didn’t help. They were never natural enemies, but twice got pitted against each other. So, the officer class of both establishments always had respect for fellow officers of the same perhaps ruthless disposition – mitigated by an old-fashioned sense of compassion or honour.

As illustrated by the performance by Von Stroheim as the German Commander in Renoir’s ‘La Grande Illusion‘ (1939), some of the Junker class had a measure of civility. Regarding the rules of combat and proper treatment of prisoners during wartime, it is quite clear that most American, German, Japanese and to a significantly lesser extent British generals did not observe them, but Rommel largely did.

‘La Grande Illusion,’ a film of the first world war, says a lot about the need for pacifism and the somewhat courtly treatment of prisoners of war. It also demonstrates the futility of any war or any form of conflict that descends into tribalism, nationalism and chauvinism which is where we are now headed.

Renoir elaborated in commentary on the film that all cultures are cliquish and have their own rules, their own protocols and their own way of dealing with those who do not observe the rules of the game or the rule of law.

When it opened, a largely right wing audience in France went berserk, like the reception in the Abbey Theatre to ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ in 1907. Renoir’s acid comment was in effect that these people were doomed and the audience reaction showed that “people who commit suicide do not do so in front of witnesses.” He had touched a raw nerve.

Rommel, though not Renoir, was a tolerably-civilised Junker and given the awfulness of the military mindset and the circumstances, a tolerably civilised human being compromised by his service to awfulness.  The real mystery about him relates to his knowledge of the Van Stauffenberg plot and his final disenchantment with his mentor Hitler. He either knew of, or did not disavow, or plotted with the removal of Hitler – hence his death by cyanide pill in the back of the car.

As a new form of corporate and military industrial barbarism takes hold, the actual rakes of the game have shifted. Normal laws have given way to executive action, ouster clauses, emergency legislation driven by the pandemic and many of the decision makers now rough-hewn combatants engaging in inconsequential thinking that might be viewed historically in hindsight as a combination of blinkered vision and indeed war crimes or crimes against humanity.

When the rules of the game have become replaced by real or fake wars in an age of disinformation then the narrow tinsel of legality has broken down. Johnson venerates Churchill and references him like the Bible to in effect trumpet and blow up his own reputation. Churchill was a great man but also a war criminal not least in sanctioning Bomber Harris and the bombing of Dresden with the death of many innocent civilians as documented in Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughterhouse.’

So, Rommel does matter in a perilous age.

He was with a few contrary incidents very decent to prisoners of armed conflict and was a civilised European gentleman. Ultimately, he had enough of a barbaric and unstable regime and his subtle but recognisable opposition was enough.

Currently even that scant level of heroism within the establishment is perhaps enough. The last remnants of civilisation. And Renoir the hedgehog saw clearly in 1939 that we are on the brink of a precipice as we are now. People such as Rommel the Fox are needed to instill moderation. And for their unique skill sets of both military tactician and humanist.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: The Irish Supreme Court sitting  in 2020 with Chief Justice Frank Clarke (centre) with Supreme Court members , from left: Ms. Justice Isuelt O’Malley, Mr. Justice John MacMenamin, Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell, The Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Mr. Justice Liam McKechnie, Mr. Justice Peter Charleton and Ms. Justice Mary Irvine (Mr. Seamus Woulfe has since joined); Mr. David Langwallner

Journalist Danielle Idini, from Cassandra Voices, is doing a series of interviews, consultation documents and reportages about the housing and homelessness meltdown in Ireland.

It is a cascade toward social meltdown, escalated by Covid, so this is a serious departure in Broadsheet as I am supportive but driven by a sense of urgency.

I have initiated a campaign and other stakeholders are involved, and believe firmly that the only way forward is to appeal to the semi-civilised Confederacy of Dunces (1980) of our Supreme Court before it is too late. And it is, in graphic terms, three minutes to midnight.

Danielle is an Italian and, I think, an urbane human being, familiar with Vittoria De Sicca of the Italian neo-realist tradition who created the masterpiece Bicycle Thieves (1948).

The plot of the film is this man, driven to destitution and those of his livelihood by the theft of a bicycle, who then steals a bicycle and thus is lowered in his son’s eyes, seeing him chased and arrested and hounded by the mob. An idol fallen. Well, who are the thieves? In parenthesis, Danielle’s bicycle, a little like Gogol’s precious overcoat, was also stolen recently.

The social and economic rights, in fact, have a long intellectual pedigree. They are there in the Englishman Thomas Hobbes’ enumeration of natural rights. They are there in Ancient Greek lists of fundamental natural rights. There was a proposal to include them in the UN charter, aborted by the developed world, and thus they are reconstituted in the 1966 covenant but with limited effectiveness, even allowing for recent rights of an individual petition. But we are now all in the same boat.

Article 40.3 of the Irish Constitution and the Directive Principles (Article 45) allow for the creation of a right to housing but, despite the murmuring of the late vestiges of Christian socialism, our judges have declared these non-justiciable. That is ever since the neo-liberal ascendancy. Including and especially a man I have much praised, Adrian Hardiman, and, let us allocate blame even handedly, Declan Costello (although he apologised and recanted when he retired). Costello was, in fact, responsible in O’Reilly v Limerick Corporation (1990) for stating that such social and economic considerations were matters for Leinster House not the Four Courts. Hardiman followed suit. Egg on faces.

The Indian Supreme Court conversely, in Olga Telis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation, recognised the right to housing in the context of an extension of the right to life. This case concerned public interest litigation by thousands of pavement dwellers of Bombay city. The plaintiffs argued that they could not be evicted from their squalid shelters without being offered alternative accommodation.

They further argued that they had chosen a pavement or slum to live in only because it was nearest to their place of work, and that evicting them would result in depriving them of their livelihood. The petitioners were to be evicted under the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, which empowered the Municipal Commissioner to remove encroachments on footpaths or pavements over which the public have a rite of passage or access.

The Indian Constitution (modelled on the earlier Irish Constitution) excludes the Directive Principles from cognisance by the court. Yet the Indian court, unlike our judges, opined in finding that the right to life itself was informed by the directive principle that: Article 39(a) of the Constitution, which is a Directive Principle of State Policy, provides that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.

The court concluded that if there is an obligation upon the State to secure for its citizens an adequate means of livelihood and the right to work, it would be sheer pedantry to exclude the right to livelihood from the content of the right to life. The judgment thus expanded the right to life, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, to include within its scope, the right to livelihood which, in this context, translated into the right to be allowed to remain on the pavements.

It might be noted that the South African experience is different in that social and economic rights are textual and thus inherently justiciable and dignity is in their charter in several places.

The relevant housing provision in Grootboom is Article 26:

Housing 1. Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. 2. The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right. No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions. The Constitution also specifies an immediately enforceable specific minimum right against forced or arbitrary evictions. Such a right entails: (i): Meaningful consultation prior to eviction. (ii): Alternative relocation if eviction proceeds. (iii): No eviction to proceed unless the land is being put to productive use.

Nonetheless, the South African courts have set down limits for their review and, in general, such rights are in the text of the document to be progressively realised. In Soobramoney v Minister for Health, the South African Supreme Court was very explicit about the large margin of discretion it would give to the state to set budgets and priorities, stating that the court “will be slow to interfere with rational decisions taken in good faith”. However, if the decision taken is unreasonable then the South African courts will interfere.

In Ireland, the housing market is chronically under-provided with many local councils reluctant to countenance the building of modular homes and the rental market out of control and extortionate. The neo-liberal David McWilliams advises not to buy homes. There will be no security for the mortgaged or rentier class. The state of Ireland is also tolerating an epidemic of evictions by banks and vulture funds from Canada and America who have ‘agency captured’ the banks and bought up the assets of the banks and Nama in a subprime way.

A liquidation sale against the dispossessed. Bicycle thieves.

Our judges have not adequately regulated, and have negligently permitted, said vulture and hedge funds to engage in unfair commercial practices often in breach of consumer protection; reneging on promises bartered with consumers at a time of high ostensible economic prosperity, by refusing their contractual obligations to revert the consumer to a tracker mortgage after the expiry of a fixed rate period; or upping interest rate repayments significantly more than ECB hedge rates, most prevalently with those seeking to exit the country.

Thus, banks with no interest in Ireland, Danske Bank and the Bank of Scotland and now Ulster Bank, simply left the room and disposed of their assets, hiking up the mortgage interest rate payments rapaciously as they left and/or sold the assets off to the underworld of vulture funds and hedge funds.

In 2008, the Central Bank and other banks may have allowed a potential at least €6 billion borrowed, or in accountancy terms classified as income, disappear where? And to whom? And all of this while people are being thrown out on the streets, even in Covid times.

To counteract all of this and deal with homelessness and affordable housing, a challenge has to be made through the courts to establish a right to housing.

Recall that In 2014, the Constitutional Convention recommended that the Constitution be amended to include economic, social and cultural rights including a specific right to housing.

Our politicians have been bought. Now, the only hope is the good old boys of the less-captured judiciary. So, let us in our half-baked non-profession launch… a constitutional challenge.

I am committed and I am sure some legal minds in Dublin would enjoy taking up the challenge?

What will our children think if we don’t? Well, watch Bicycle Thieves.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

From top: Adrian Hardiman in 2009; David Langwallner

I am 57 today. I share the same birthday with the erotic and political Austrian writer Hertha Muller, the Jamaican freedom fighter Marcus Garvey, the writer of ‘The Corrections,’ Jonathan Franzen, Ted Hughes, author of ‘Birthday Letters,’ and the greatest living actor, though a man of complexity, Mr Robert de Niro.

Leos, the astrologist say of this day, are controlled but passionate and inclined to lose the rag. Well all generalisations are odious and, though Mr. De Niro and I do conform to some similar generalisations, I do not believe in astrology.

The time of a birthday is a time for reflection or sometimes commemoration and the literature reflect all such themes. The great song by Stevie Wonder about Martin Luther King is why we should celebrate those lives that matter.

There is a mid-70’s film by the legendary Italian film director Francesco Rossi called Illustrious Corpses. (1976). The film in effect demonstrates how many fighters against corruption in Italy including communist judges such as Falcone – murdered aged 53 – became illustrious corpses. Of course, the toxic relationship historically in Italy between the Christian Democrats and Andreotti and the organised mafia of Sicily and Naples is well documented.

Ireland, beset by the same Catholic sins of nepotism and simony, has its own mafia: the triage of the established Dublin Catholic families and action groups with their sheddings in academia; the judiciary, bankers, and lawyers knee-deep in property speculation debt; their friends and associates in the police, political caste, and social services.

I was reminded of this and other matters when I attended both the funeral parlour and the wake for Adrian Hardiman, the darling wee man, now over five years gone and the greatest Irish human being of the last 50 years at least. Lonely is the grave In Memento Mori. Tempus Fugit. Died aged 62.

Yet at the funeral parlour and the funeral itself I was struck by the overwhelming hypocrisy of many of those in attendance, not least the good Catholic bourgeoisie who of course despised Adrian  for both his views and indeed his lifestyle which was of course very libertarian.

Pietistic hypocrisy. Prayers for the recently,  in his case, unfaithfully departed even though you could see the smug look in many of their faces both of their own survivability and indeed in some barely concealed joy that he was gone. Not that much concealed under a mask of seriousness or perhaps sanctimoniousness.

They all ritually attended, particularly those who disliked him the most. The coterie of right-wing Catholicism and Statism was there in its fullest. You could read the minds. Another problem not to deal with. Another voice of resistance to theocratic and statist control gone. Thank God?

I was acutely conscious of the silence, having only spoken to him days previously about a piece on the rule of law I wrote for Village magazine which he was most interested in reading and in that unforgettable Jussie Björling voice of his would revert by Monday when we would meet. He was dead Sunday.

A post-birthday resolution is to read his book on Joyce and to reread Ulysses which opens of course with the character of Buck Mulligan, based on another person born on August 17th, Oliver St John Gogarty:

‘Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.’

So, as I reach my birthday, I am proud of what I have done for the rule of law, not least the Irish Innocence Project and its exposure of the toxic Indonesian police state that is now the south of Ireland. I am of course proud of many other things: the articles written; the successful representations; the rather uncompromising attitude of principle; but, as a woman I should more successfully have wooed said to me, you are too stubborn, David, and perhaps over-confident. Well, she misjudged the latter. I am assailed by doubts and far too self-critical.

Of Gladstone it was said when he became prime minister at aged 80, that he was an old man in a hurry. That is the way I feel now, but it could be an Indian summer.

No quietus. No closure. Never give in. Enemies to be confronted: conservatism; neo-liberalism; fabricated or exaggerated allegations; corrupt politicians. Whistle-blowers to be protected, Magdalene Laundry survivor rights to be vindicated, innocents to be defended, extremism to be opposed, love to be asserted.

I am not getting old, just getting better.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish innocence project and was Irish lawyer of the year at the 2015 Irish law awards. His column appears here every Tuesday and Friday. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner


From top: A masked William Shakespeare; David Langwallner

I am reliably informed that the first person to die following the Covid jab in the UK was one William Shakespeare of an unrelated illness. Sympathies to his family, but conscious of his lineage and pedigree, I am fond of quoting Shakespeare in my closing speeches. He says a lot about the human condition that appeals to juries or sometimes judges.

Though the Bard of Avon has never gone out of fashion and expresses the eternal philosophical and ethical quandaries in brief form of the human condition, the question is, as always, that of selecting the content most relevant for our age.

Quotation 1

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
Polonius. Hamlet.

In a world of unaffordable rents and mortgages, who would want to be a borrower in the market of easy exploitation? Which leads to, of course, a consideration of The Merchant of Venice.

Now racism aside. Portia (Bassano’s betrothed) presents herself disguised as a young lawyer and pleads with Shylock to demonstrate some mercy for the enforcement of his bond among those whose affairs have been frothy and, in a famous passage, she argues:

‘The quality of mercy is not strained, it dropped as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed, it blessed him that gives, and him that takes, tis mightiest in the mightiest, it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown, His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, the attribute to awe and majesty, wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings: But mercy is above this sceptred sway, it is enthroned in the heart of kings, it is an attribute to God himself; and earthly power doth then show likes god’s, when mercy seasons justice.’

Though Shylock responds by saying:

‘I crave the law, the penalty and forfeit of my bond.’

Portia then shifts ground and argues in a literalist way that Shylock’s bond be enforced, but…

‘…the bond gives thee there no jot of blood – The words expressly are a pound of flesh”: Then take they bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, but in the cutting it, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods are by the laws of Venice confiscate.” … For as thou urge justice, be assured, thou shalt have justice more than thou deserts.’

So, Shylock, unlike our bankers, is punished but even if not is himself morally damaged by the act of lending. The question is posed, who the underserving and criminals are? Well Shakespeare answered through the fool in Kind Lear…

Quotation 2

‘What art mad. A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears see how yon justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark in thine ear, change places, and handy dandy, what is the justice which is the thief.’

Steal the world and bailout Goldman Sachs and the banks and there are no repercussions. Steal information or whistle-blow and be like Mr Assange, a broken human being, a criminal so deemed by corporate criminals festooned with accolades and speaking engagements

Quotation 3

‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks‘

(Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2)

In Stacey Schiff’s book about The Salem Witch Hunt (2015) it is noticeable how a transformation or a sublimation causes the hysteria of persecution and prosecution and, as the book makes clear, this hysteria is easily accomplished by social workers or police officers. We are living in an extreme age of demonisation. An age of witches and witch hunts.

Schiff’s book demonstrates how a conventional puritanical or fundamentalist or orthodox thought leads to a hatred of difference and sorcery. The hatred of difference and exceptionalism. And often the targeting of minorities and the poor and excluded.

Categorisation of someone as a witch or a warlock is also a form of jealousy when they have a gift you do not. Thus, it is often again in Freudian terms, a form of transference for your own perceived inadequacies. It is an age of extremism and the absence of moderation that leads to witch hunts and terror. Persecuting anyone you disagree with and the abandonment of rational debate

Of course, Macbeth is steeped in King James’ preoccupations with witchcraft or demonology and treason or subversion portrayed in the play as a form of witchcraft or demonology.

Thus…Quotation 4

All that glisters is not gold.‘
(The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 7)

The zeitgeist is consumed with the notion of a post-truth universe. Post-truth or truth decay has been coming for a while and its origins need to be traced to Shakespeare.

It is not the only thing he had to say on post-truth

“a scurvy politician seems to see the thing thou does not.’

‘Stuffing the ears of men with false report’

Take those purveyors of nonsense and incomprehensible prose – the structuralists and post modernists – who are united in their rejection of universal values. Thus, they espouse relativism and ditch the enlightenment as an irrelevance.

This leads to the dismissal of evidence, rationality, science, rigour, precision and all the integrative forces that tie society together. Noam Chomsky in this context famously said of them:

‘It is entirely possible that I am simply missing something, or that I just lack the intellectual capacity to understand the profundities that have been unearthed in the past 20 years or so by Paris intellectuals and their followers. I am perfectly open-minded about it, and have been for years, when similar charges have been made — but without any answer to my questions. Again, they are simple and should be easy to answer, if there is an answer: if I am missing something, then show me what it is, in terms I can understand. Of course, if it’s all beyond my comprehension, which is possible, then I’m just a lost cause, and will be compelled to keep to things I do seem to be able to understand, and keep to association with the kinds of people who also seem to be interested in them and seem to understand them (which I’m perfectly happy to do, having no interest, now or ever, in the sectors of the intellectual culture that engage in these things, but apparently little else).

‘Since no one has succeeded in showing me what I am missing, we are left with the second option: I am just incapable of understanding. I am certainly willing to grant that it may be true, though I am afraid I will have to remain suspicious, for what seem good reasons. There are lots of things I do not understand — say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat’s last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without difficulty; (2) if I am interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. — even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest — write things that I also do not understand, but (1) and (2) do not hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I have not a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of “theory” that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) … I will not spell it out.’

In other words, it is nonsense, but nonsense that has had a degrading effect on our culture. Nonsense with influence and power which should not be underestimated.

Relativistic arguments should have been confined to the left bank of Paris but have been hijacked by extreme populists. including outright climate change deniers, creationists, global neo-liberals or neo-conservatism, who insist on the balanced coverage of their often-ludicrous views.

Relativism leads to a contempt for the truth, for reason and evidence and thus a rejection of scientific values and thus a rejection of order and the rule of law. The appeal of post modernism and structuralism is also an appeal to the half-educated or worse still those who desire to say fashionable things at dinner parties in Hampstead.

The first point to note about the post-modernists nonsense is that it has encouraged a distrust of the truth and an atmosphere of looseness and imprecision where arguments are accorded  and given equal weight even if there has been nothing of substance to say. Since all views are equally valid all views should be aired and taken equally seriously.

Relativistic and structuralist ideas such as the indeterminacy of texts, alternative ways of knowing and the instability of language feed into politicians of all shades and hues now arguing that every word he/she utters should not be taken literally and that just as a text by Derrida contradicts itself so they can say inconsistent things from one moment to the next.

According to Evan Davies in his recent book Post Truth, one aspect of bullshit is the desire to believe something unreasonable to be true. Thus, confirmation bias kicks in with the thought process:

‘Because I want to believe x I have come to persuade myself x is true.’

Pope Francis sagely remarked that there is no such thing as harmless disinformation: trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. So, in a sane rational universe that is how everything should and ought to be decided. Except that is not what confronts us today. We are all as many have suggested creatures. of bounded rationality we can only absorb so much. We must filter.

Quotation 5

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’
(Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3)

Speak what we feel not what we ought to say

Quotation 6

‘Indeed, it is as strange, disposed time but men may construe things after their fashion clean from the purpose of things themselves.’

Lies have become intrinsic to commercial and business interaction. Increasingly more and more we have The People Of The Lie, as in the seminal book by Scott Peck, who contends that evil is untruth and that which, he contends, undermines life and liveliness and transforms people into automatons.

Quotation 7

‘Cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war‘

In The film Wag the Dog (1997) a fake war is created. Well, that was Afghanistan and certainly Iraq. But there are other types of fake wars. The War on Drugs, a smokescreen not to deal with the root causes: poverty, housing, environment, and austerity. Or now the war on the virus and an over-inflated and disproportionate reaction to a significant but not overwhelming public health crisis. So, create a panic. Cry fire in the theatre. Get people to panic and thus comply.

Quotation 8

‘Nothing will come of nothing.’

‘I am better than thou art now I am nothing.’

On the great humanist director Ozu‘s grave is simply the Japanese insignia for nothingness. In fact, it is what people would do better to recognise what we do when we are living that defines us. His films focus on people, love, friendship, tolerance, family and community.

Japan, like Germany, created an economic miracle out of the disaster of the second world war. But the long terms effects of Japanese corporatism have been a disaster. Death by overwork has become endemic in Japanese corporate culture. Growth has not been counterbalanced by sustainability or environmental protection and nuclear power nearly led to nuclear meltdown.

The neo-liberal Japanese model is also mirrored in Ireland and perhaps Mr. Varadkar should know that getting up early in the morning is not in itself laudable. Only fools and horse’s work. Moreover, what are you working at and for?

If your work is debt collecting or serving a vulture fund or providing tax relief for a multinational, then that is not productive work or proper work. You are wasting your time and life and doing nothing of value. Doing nothing to reduce people to nothing.

Quotation 9

‘The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.’
(Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5)

The problem of evil in our times and let us clarify what it is: extremism, fundamentalism, draconian laws, the destruction of moderation and freedom a culture of greed and the subversion and negation of the rule of law.

Doing good even for charity is often a recipe for disaster and casually forgotten. Satan has won in a secular sense. True innocence and unselfish communal behaviour are not rewarded in the market. Take Coriolanus on the social safety net

‘Cleanse the foul body of the infected world. If they will receive my medicine.’

And what is left? Well, compassion, sincerity, truth, community, and optimism. The only vistas forward. So, the greatest poem in the language, worth quoting in full.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed.
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owls.
Nor shall death brag thou wander in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’s:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Or more simply: Love conquers everything. Or should.

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence Project and was Irish Lawyer of the Year at the 2015 Irish Law Awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner

From top: Covid protest in Trafalgar Square, London, England last month; David Langwallner

I have been asked to do something about Summertime in England since I am here and, objectively and subjectively, involved in much. A watcher at a fin de siècle reset, I have not  been expressly asked for optimism but intend to offer some, although said quality will be tempered by realism and clinical cold judgment and I am a cold, judgmental human being at one level.

The Van Morrison song Summertime in England, one of his greatest songs and a perfect expression of his Celtic Protestantism, or is that mysticism, invokes King Arthur and Avalon.

The Glastonbury legend has the boy Jesus and his uncle Joseph of Arimathea building the first wattle and daub church on the site of Glastonbury Cathedral. So mystic, magical, and Christian traits, are all part of the British character and many are evident now, including some deceptive  traits such as sorcery and disinformation.

Shakespeare writes in IA Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That, yet we sleep, we dream…”

And, in fact, the living or the living dead of zombie capitalism are not fully awake but often sleepwalking somnambulistically into the abyss, as the legendary Austrian writer Hermann Broch accurately predicted in a similar age of corporate fascism. A state between sleeping and waking is implicit in Shakespeare’s remark.

It is highly noticeable how many of my legal cases now involve derealisation, a psychiatric condition and potential defence related to being a spectator in one’s own life and living in an altered or hyper real state of reality. Well, what is real and fake, now difficult to judge?

Stay safe with unsafe vaccines of unproven utility with variants to come and the drug companies profit at our expense. Vaccine passports to restrict movement and divide the world and to curtail leisure activities. Checks at every border. Clean or unclean. Infected or impure. The division, cartelisation and obliteration of humanity and the attitude of our power brokers under neo-liberalism. Well, summertime in England.

There is a very famous American book by an American James Agee and a photographer Walker Evans called “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” published in 1941. The phrase is, of course, religious (Jewish) in origin and in its fullest is “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the fathers that beget them”.

I am always, of course, deeply distrustful of the incantation of religious phrases and resistant to same, though I admire Agee greatly and he is curiously relevant for our time.

The book, partially state-funded, chronicles dustbowl America and Evans adds the pictorial record of the devastation wreaked by the great economic depression in the dustbowl of America. In terms of the picture of Walker Evans, it is noticeable how grim the faces are and how anguished the expressions, particularly on the faces of the children, highlighting lives lost or marginalised. Lives lost by neglect and the attrition and degradation of poverty.

Austerity, as is well documented in our present age, murders people by stealth through the gradual removal of all forms of social support. And emergency workers, lawyers or NHS workers, might share the same fate and whatever ramparts of social protection did exist have been whittled away by Covid.

As far as that economic system was concerned, these sharecroppers were surplus commodities, as are you, to many of them. Not one of them.

Les Misérables, adapted from Victor Hugo as a musical, is so intrinsic to the delicate boundaries between high and low art in the UK that it defines in many ways, or did the consensus, of the British culture. The uneasy line between kitsch, depth and lightness and meaning now somewhat lost. More to the point, Les Misérables is about protecting the little people.

The wretched of the earth have nowhere to go in lockdown with lockdowns to come. In fact, the wretched of the earth are the earth. And with variants to come in the endless and, obviously partly fabricated, shock doctrine of our universe.

But should you Stay Safe in your boltholes, or self-immolate in increments, death on the installment plan, or commit suicide as Stefan Zweig and Walter Benjamin, a bow to my Austrian heritage and a presager of the nearest comparable age, did?

Les Misérable is about but the persecution of Jean Valjean by the vengeful prosecutor. Valjean, as in the book, is chased to the ends of the earth for the theft of a loaf of bread while the brokers of power protect those who rape and despoil the universe. Prosecute the petty criminal but presidents get enriched by Goldman Sachs.

Covid, as Mr Farage says, creates opportunity. Well, where there is chaos, as chairman Mao, another presager of Chinese corporate capitalism, said, there is opportunity, and I am sure Mr Farage would understand.

The press, meanwhile, increasingly sanitised and committed to balanced coverage misunderstand balance. There is no such thing often as balance in our post-truth age with an internally censured and corporate press. The culture of dissidence and dissent gradually being marginalised and expurgated from our culture, though less so in Britain.

Thus, the educated and empowered little men and women have much less power than they think. Beautiful, hyper-educated creatures talking about relationships, knowing all the best art and cinema and powerless. Obsessed by marginal consumerist issues.

The justification of more executive powers is extremely dangerous when disproportionate measures are introduced to counteract a wildly overstated emergency, and pander to a worrying trend of compliance, or what is  called ‘anticipatory obedience’. Compliance for the sake of compliance and security.

More to the point, precious liberties are now being accepted as tradeable, to use a marketisation expression, for security or survivability. And, increasingly, that is how a docile or controlled population is now accepting.

Now the UK wishes to criminalise public interest disclosures by journalists, curtail protest by subjective assertions and introduce ouster clauses to usurp the jurisdiction of the courts.

Lord Sumption has argued bravely and recently in a codicil to his new book Law in A Time of Crisis (2021) that the over-compliant UK population are surrendering hard-won freedoms and liberties on a misplaced need for security. They are being manipulated by propaganda and increasingly controlled by executive decree and the scale and rapidity with which a nominal authoritarian democracy is being fabricated, breath-taking. I agree. And Ireland even more so.

So, the Les Misérables of the universe of venal corporatism and state authoritarianism need to reclaim what Habermas calls the public sphere and realise as he argues, as did Gandhi and Martin Luther King, that disobedience against tyranny is necessary.

So, in summertime, stay positive and social. Protest, organise, dissent, regroup. Fight for your rights against inevitable environmental and economic destruction. Fight for every penny and every ounce in coronavirusland. Do not allow yourself to be manoeuvred into destitution. For influence and talent is still power and there are independent vectors, however dwindling, to fight back.

It may be futile. As Puck speaks to Oberon about the humans that have found themselves in the forest, he despairs at the human intellect.  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the full line is:

“Shall we their fond pageant, see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

David Langwallner is a barrister specialising in public law, immigration, housing and criminal defence including miscarriages of justice. He is emeritus director of the Irish Innocence Project and was Irish Lawyer of the Year at the 2015 Irish Law Awards. Follow David on Twitter @DLangwallner