So as I was getting ready this morning and flicked on the TV (in the interest of full disclosure, it was TV3’s Midday) to discover that they were talking about the CCTV cameras placed in the toilets of a Kildare secondary school and subsequent protest by students.
The full story is here but more than anything, I worry about the complete lack of any anger on the part of most people. Nora Owen, the former Minister for Justice stated when asked that she effectively saw no issue with the cameras as to the best of her knowledge, they would not be aimed at any area of the rooms that could violate privacy and that the only action on the part of the school that was somewhat reprehensible, was not seeking permission from parents. Well sadly Mrs. Owen, I think with such claims you just reminded me that you were one of those Ministers who wasn’t qualified to be in that position in the first place (She holds a degree in Industrial Chemistry).
Under Article 40.3.1 of the Irish Constitution, are the unenumerated rights, rights that have been discovered within others by the courts (more specifically Ryan v Attorney General was the first case to do so) and amongst these is the right to privacy created within Kennedy and Arnold (before this privacy only extended to marital privacy as in McGee) as “the nature of the right to privacy is such that it must ensure the dignity and freedom of the individual in a democratic society”. With the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Charter on Human Rights is also fully incorporated in Irish law and the privacy right contained within it are binding against the State.
If the Data Protection Commissioner only has issues with the legality of the act, he really needs to go back and learn some basic law principles, because even if the handling of the video from the cameras is in a grey area, the installation of the cameras is not; if the school wants to prove their actions are constitutional, they’re going to need to prove that it’s a proportionate response, something I don’t think they can do. The problem is, if they say that the cameras will have a full view of the rooms in order to catch those bullying other students and vandalising school property, they’re going to have a tough time proving that the acts that they’re stopping are serious enough to warrant such a gross violation of privacy and likewise, if they are only pointed at certain areas of the rooms to minimize the intrusion, it will be difficult to argue the effectiveness of the cameras at all. More importantly, if we all think back to when we were teenagers, we would remember that if a teenager sets their mind to do something, they’ll do it, the cameras will more than likely just make them do it somewhere else on the grounds.
What irritates me most, is that so many people in this country only seem to protest or care about issues when it affects their wage package – a bill recriminalising blasphemy came into law without much, if any complaint from the general public but when the public sector have to take pay cuts, they’re out on the streets. When these kids have the balls to stand up and protest against something they believe in, that they know to be wrong, the general impression I’ve gotten is that they’re troublemakers, complaining about something that’s inevitable, they should just lie down and stop complaining.
Why should any criticise someone for standing up for what they believe in merely because it’s not tangible or currency? We need activism and protests because they remind us of why we shouldn’t stop caring about what’s going on around us, that there are slippery slopes where ‘one thing leads to another’ and suddenly we’re affected but just as we were complacent before, those remaining won’t help us.
I personally hope there are more of this kind of youth in future because ‘If our colleges and universities do not breed men who riot, who rebel, who attack life with all their youthful vision and vigor then there is something wrong with our colleges. The more riots that come on college campuses, the better the world for tomorrow.’ (Robert Kennedy)