Some big news: Free Health services for everyone is something the government promised for years, but it didn’t happen. Instead – in a total surprise move – free legal aid for everyone was introduced in April. …we just weren’t told about it yet!
“Free Legal aid” means that the state covers the cost for solicitor/barrister and all other legal cost and this route is available to people with limited financial means to ensure that not only wealthy people can get justice, but that also poor people can defend themselves when they are accused of something.
It is a very fair concept and I don’t think that anybody could have an issue with the concept of it.
The question about “Who can get it?”, however, can be a more controversial one, but it seems that this problem has been removed now because it emerged that a member of the Irish Parliament, who is on a salary of approximately EUR 90,000 per year PLUS significant expenses can get free legal aid and if he can get it, then the majority of people in Ireland (who earn a lot less than him) MUST also be eligible for it. Right?
Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy is accused of falsely imprisoning Tanaiste Joan Burton during a water charges protest in November 2014 and he has applied for free legal aid on the grounds that he can’t afford the court costs. Judge Melanie Greally from the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has decided that based on his average weekly income, he will get free legal aid! :-O
How can that be the case for someone who has a monthly salary of EUR 4000? Well, Murphy has an agreement with his party that he only gets EUR 1,800 (after tax) per month and that the party can keep the rest.
So the money that arrives in his bank account is genuinely quite low, BUT this is a voluntary arrangement that he has with his party and herein lies the problem!
Imagine if you had a voluntary arrangement with your parents or spouse or a friend to give them more than half of your monthly salary (assuming you were lucky enough to earn 4k), do you you think a judge would also have sympathy with you? I don’t think so!
And even more so in this case, it means that you and I will pay for Paul Murphy’s legal aid (because taxes will pay for it) and his party can continue pocketing his salary, so we are indirectly funding his party! Doesn’t sound right!! We are talking about approximately EUR 50,000!
The Journal.ie reported about this here: www.thejournal.ie/paul-murphy-legal-aid-2740512-Apr2016/
The case he has to defend himself in is somewhat irrelevant in this situation, but if we looked at what he is accused of then it becomes even more questionable if he should receive a cent of tax payers money and it even makes you wonder if he is fit to be a TD: Tanaiste Joan Burton came from an event in a school in Tallaght and was on her way to a church for the rest of the event, when a protest against water charges blocked her car in and “imprisoned” her in her car for about 2 hours.
Protesting is a legal right, but stopping someone’s movements against their will is not. It was a stupid and unjustified action. No serious harm was done to anyone and you could argue that bringing him to court is a bit of an overreaction, but unfortunately there are no other means to penalise someone who misbehaves.
The real bad news is that free legal aid has NOT been introduced for everyone, instead only someone who could afford to pay from his own pocket and who knowingly broke the law, will get the money paid by you and me!