Minister for Justice suggests ATM charge to deter kidnappings.


It's a story that could have come straight from the back page of the Irish Examiner, the space on one of Ireland's broadsheets reserved for ridiculous stories such as 'man escapes from prison through toilet', yet the story involves an Irish Cabinet Minister and a very real suggestion to deter kidnappings by increasing ATM charges.

If you're scratching your head at how on Earth this proposal was supposed to work, I think everybody but Dermot Ahern, Ireland's Minister for Justice and Law Reform, is wondering precisely that.

The context is that Ireland has suffered a spate of so-called 'tiger kidnappings' in recent years. Incidents in which a bank official's spouse or partner is held up until the bank official hands over a substantial sum of cash to the kidnappers.

Such incidents have increased dramatically in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, and are now a staple of broadsheet crime and court reporting.

The immediate impetus for the Minister's unexpected suggestion was a tiger kidnapping which saw a Dublin robber making away with €300,000 in cash after terrorizing a bank official and his unfortunate wife.

While the tiger kidnapping could unfortunately have been expected, I very much doubt that anybody was expecting to hear the Justice Minister's colorful suggestion: to increase charges at ATM machines.

The logic - according to the pundits - was this: greater ATM charges deter people from withdrawing money from ATMs; in turn, people use 'plastic money' such as bank cards mor often; in turn there is less cash in circulation; and finally, there's less cash about the place for robbers to try rob, so tiger kidnappings are reduced or entirely obliterated.

This might be the sort of earnest suggestion to a problem that you'd expect from a grade-schooler, yet it's somewhat worrying that it comes from Ireland's Justice Minister - and was discussed, if the headlines are to believed, with various high-ranking bank officials. The Minister's afterword that Ireland was lagging behind the rest of Europe in becoming a cashless society is very true, but not in the way Ahern intended.

Perhaps a better suggestion on the part of the Minister might have been to ensure that local police forces have more than batons to combat the increasing numbers of armed and dangerous robbers plying their trade by the doors of the country's banks.

Above all the Minister's suggestion is telling of an Irish government who's idea of solving problems involves heaping on more tax and making the majority of the population pay for the misbehaviour of a minority.

The Criminal Justice Psychoactive Substances Bill was cut from the same cloth. Make all psychoactive plants illegal because a few people take mind-altering drugs was the logic; unfortunately it became law.

The Minister's ATM proposal throws an already wounded and limping government even further into ridicule and disarray.

Let's hope that the Irish people can elect a Justice Minister who can come up with a better idea for stopping tiger kidnappings than increasing ATM fees in the next general election.

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