A 64 year old grandmother is jailed for four months, punishment for €4000 in unpaid fines while the driving force behind much of the country’s fiscal woes and the crime of austerity carries on partying in the champagne set to the tune of Deutschland über alles.
€4000 is not a figure a banker would notice when doling out the country’s finances to any crook that comes along, development plan in hand. It is loose change, enough to buy a bottle of bubbly to be smashed against the side of yet one more Titanic doomed never to reach its destination. Bankers only notice that type of figure when you owe it to them. And then they will crucify you to get it back ... with interest.
The grandmother who had buried her sister six weeks previous was hauled off to jail. The experience of Catherine Teeling is instructive in that it places a neon light over the mindset of the state and criminal justice system, one that can only properly be described in terms of class. Having revisited Marist writing in recent months, there is much to be said for the Marxian progenitor’s dim view of hierarchal society in which the demarcation lines are drawn by class.
Teeling's daughter Audrey described the trauma her mother was forced to undergo:
My mam has not been able to get over the moment she found her sister lying dead on the pavement ... Sadie died just six weeks ago. My mam is still very much in the grieving process. She's in no fit state to be in jail. I'm begging Alan Shatter to intervene and let her out without delay. I was sitting with her when two gardai arrived at the door and took her away. She was in her pyjamas; it was devastating. Her two grandkids are asking: 'Where's Granny?' I don't know what to tell them.
This strongly suggests that the main target of punitive criminal and justice system is as it always was – those closest to the bottom of the food chain in society. How many banksters or derelict developers are in jail? Yet:
There were 8,304 committals for non-payment of court-ordered fines in 2012; 7,514 in 2011; 6,683 in 2010, 152 of whom were imprisoned for failing to pay fines imposed for not having a television licence.
The independent councillor Christy Burke has been raising the issue with the authorities in the hope that he might secure Teeling's release:
This is not the type of person we should be locking up. She is a decent, genuine woman who is just trying to get through a very difficult time. If the authorities have any compassion, they will realise this and release her.
The authorities do realise it but they would rather free Barabbas. Those who should not be in prison must be released to free up room for those who should, to the warder's cry of 'Anglo Irish Wing, 50 on. '