Friday, 14 March 2014

The Rhetoric of the Freeman on the Land Movement

The Freeman on the Land Movement is an unaffiliated group whose main belief is that the current legal system lacks legitimacy. Some of the main beliefs are that the state is prejudicial to those who choose to not recognise state authority and aspects of contract law. The ideology has gained traction amongst parts of Irish society in the economic slump as anti-state sentiment grew in the wake of several bank bailouts and various government controversies.

Those associated with the ideology often find themselves in conflict with the Gardaí and the courts due to mortgage related issues and court orders relating to contempt-of-court proceedings. A style of argumentation often put forward by the group is that the current legal system is based on a system of contract that they have not consented to and that the courts lack jurisdiction over their case because of procedural issues. These arguments are often ignored by judges as they fall outside the accepted standards and norms of the courts. Leaders in the group respond that this is a further sign of prejudice and is the application of a foreign legal system which has no grounding in Irish law, where Irish law is an unwritten, assemblage of Brehon and anarchist thinking.

The primary argumentative style is based on what resembles strict positivist constitutional thinking; that all law should be grounded in a constitutional document and that if it does not appear in the constitution then it has no validity. Arguments put forward by the Freeman movement often relate to the sovereignty of the state flowing from the people and that arguments based on constitutional law have the highest merit. The accepted system in Ireland is that constitutional rights can be limited for the smooth functioning of the state. For example, article 4 of Bunreacht na hÉireann says "No citizen shall be deprived of his personal liberty save in accordance with law". The caveat seems to be ignored by Freemen when it suits.

These photographs are some of the material distributed throughout Dublin on street-furniture related to semi-state owned bodies, such as An Post. They do not reference any political group and have no branding. The materials do not provide a context or surroundings on which their application should be based. Anti-contractual semantics about the meaning between the words "bill" and "notice in law" presents itself as pseudo-legal thinking and is purposefully confusing. By engaging in this confusing style, the lay-person is led to believe that these arguments would have weight in front of a judge, which they don't. They lack the accepted precedent of the common law system that is employed in Ireland.

The employment of Freeman thinking is indicative of a disenfranchised group who see no remedy through ordinary, accepted means. The use of a continuously rejected approach only further deepens the crisis these people often find themselves in. Resembling a ramshackle group of middle-class anarchists, those engaged in Freeman arguments appear on shaky ground, not quite confident of their own approach, lacking any expertise on the issues they profess that 'the state' doesn't understand. It is an interesting but misguided approached to solving legal issues.

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