Irish Shooting Politics

March 29, 2009

Missions

Filed under: Politics — Mark Dennehy @ 10:36 pm

A body’s mission statement is meant to be a concise statement of its overarching philosophy. Not necessarily a statement of any great detail, but meant to show its ethos and its purpose. With this in mind, we read the recent mission statement from Declan Keogh with adegree of mirth.

THE IFSA MISSION: IRELAND IS CHANGING, AND THE TRADITIONS OF HUNTING AND SPORT SHOOTING ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THE SHIFTING TIDES OF THE CURRENT IRISH POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT.

A number of points leapt forth at first reading here – firstly, the IFSA is the fifth successive name and acronym that this nascent club has adopted. One wonders is this deliberate, a sort of camoflauge or hiding of ones trail in the jungle of the Companies Office!  Such amusement aside, one can’t help but read this mission statement and ponder whether or not its framers actually understood that a mission statement is regarded as excessively long if it runs to two lines; or whether they understood that it is actually meant to make sense even when deprived of context. Perhaps depriving it of content was a similar case of camoflauging, lest someone discern the actual purpose of this new club?

The IFSA is being set up as an association of individual members, shooting clubs, shooting associations and firearms dealers and associations.

It’s hard not to be surprised at this. I recall a similar enthusiasm for faux-inclusion in the NRPAI and SSAI prior to the most recent change in management there. The reason it is faux-inclusion as opposed to real democratic inclusion is simple; if you have an individual vote and the next person is a representative of a few hundred shooters and he has an equal vote to you, then what you have is neither democratic nor fair. It is a  real world example of the final message of Animal Farm – all are equal but some are more equal than others.

It is envisaged that we will join membership with the WFSA who represent over one hundred million sport shooters around the world.

It should be pointed out that Ireland is already represented within the WFSA by the SSAI, whose chairman was present at the most recent meeting and offered to answer any questions and pass on any information that was sought and was available – an offer not taken advantage of last we spoke. It begs the question – does this new body wish to effect change, or merely howl at the moon, disturbing everyone’s concentration during a particularly demanding time in the history of shooting sports in Ireland?

It is envisaged that the forum will provide a mechanism where all clubs, associations, firearms dealers can come together to share common issues and put in place a strategy to deal with the issues.

This is lamentably uninformed. Such forums already exist.  Primarily, there is the Firearms Consultation Panel – which will in all liklihood not recognise this new body given its lack of constitution, its stated interest in undemocratic representation and the distinct lack of willingness to utilise existing groups that its committee have shown. Every shooting organisation has representation on the FCP, even if some have the intermediary of the SSAI – it is to be noted that the interim chair of this new club has his own association seated at the FCP table. Perhaps the disagreement (which I always thought of as being impetuous) which saw Declan very publicly quit the SSAI and dissolve FLAG and attempt to have the SSAI committee ejected from office as a reaction to being named as a deputy representative to the FCP table instead of the lead representative, is a factor in this seemingly willful disdainment of existing structures?

For those who wish the grassroots to have a forum for expression, it is true, the FCP is not the ideal forum, as it deals with representatives instead of directly with all 200,000 licence holders for reasons of efficiency, and the slow pace of progress seen from the outside is an indication of how complex these issues are and how difficult consensus and comprimise is when all stakeholders are considered and not merely the interests of one sub-group of stakeholders. For example, it could be pointed out that the interests of the firearms dealers conflict with those of the average shooters in some cases, such as when it comes to the private importation of firearms from foreign sources using internet sites such as egun.de or similar. Rushing thought the process of finding a comprimise in such a circumstance is in the best interests of neither side.

For the grass roots of shooting, however, online forums do exist. Boards.ie is the largest and most successful of these online forums, though smaller more focussed forums exist (it should be noted that most of these are local to specific clubs or associaitons and do not serve the purpose of acting as a general forum). These forums allow for the first time in history, for geographically seperated people to discuss matters immediately. Several organisations – such as the VCRAI which was formed from discussions on boards and which has embraced this new technology to their great benefit – have taken great interest in this new method of communication and at present every major group in shooting from the Department of Justice and the Gardai to the NGBs of every shooting sports association in Ireland monitor and participate in boards.ie’s forums to one extent or another. Some, such as the DoJ must act through intermediaries, but this does not negate their adoption of this new mechanism.

Given the success of these forums, we should ask do we need to set up another?
Well, to cut a long story short, no.

The forum expects to engage constructively with Department of Justice and the Gardai in achieving a resolution of any issues raised by the forum, the representation will be on an escalating basis if issues fail to be resolved in a reasonable time, for example, issues with respect to firearms licensing administration will be escalated to the Garda Firearms Policy unit in GHQ, failure to resolve issues may be then referred to the Garda Ombudsman and ultimately to the courts, however given reasonable two way dialogue the forum considers the escalation even to the Garda Ombudsman to be potentially rare.

This is far too easy to read as being a threat in nature, and such threats are simply not conducive to productive working arrangements with the Gardai or the Government. If such an elementary mistake is being made before the new club is even out the door, one despairs for the future, one wonders if this new club are actually availing of their legal representation by having their public statements advised upon, and one worries if this new club will prove to be the impediment it promises to be to the interests of shooters.

The last point must be stressed. It is laudable to note problems. It is laudable to note them publicly instead of privately. It is laudable to seek solutions to those problems. But to find those solutions, one should begin by availing of existing mechanisms. Trying to reinvent the wheel from scratch and ignoring all that has been painfully learnt since the first invention of the wheel is an old and costly mistake.

It is even more reprehensible when that reinvention is being done in such a way as to threaten all that has been reclaimed from the damage done by the last bout of attempting to use the judicial branch as a stick with which to beat the legislative branch of the government. Shouting at this point will be worse than useless. When you are hanging onto the ledge by your fingernails, you don’t go waving your arms about.

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