Cathal Crotty walks free: overthrow this sexist system!




The despicable spectacle of Cathal Crotty, a soldier in the Irish Defence Forces, walking free after having brutally beaten Natasha O’Brien unconscious has led to an outpour of anger and protests across Ireland.

This ‘model soldier’ – as he was referred to by his Commandant in his character reference – grabbed Natasha O’Brien by the hair in Limerick City and repeatedly pounded her face with his clenched fist because she dared calling him out on the use of homophobic slur. To clear out any doubt about his deeds, he later went on to brag about his ‘heroic’ actions on social media. Meanwhile, Natasha O’Brien thought her life was about to come to an end.

But now, after a two-years long battle, the presiding judge, Tom O’Donnel, gave Cathal Crotty a fully suspended sentence meaning this animal won’t have to serve even one day for his actions.  

You see, the judge explained, if we were to impose an immediate sentence, then Crotty’s days as a ‘model soldier’ and his army career would be over! Surely we have to ‘take his future into account’. 

What a sick joke! He said this, with no hint of irony, to the woman Crotty viciously assaulted, and who lost her job because of the undescribable physical and mental trauma resulting from the attack.

What about me? What about my life? What about so many victims like me?” was Natasha’s response at a thousand strong protest in Limerick last week. It’s no wonder that her story has resonated with so many women across this country who took to the streets in Limerick, Dublin, Cork and many other towns.

This is precisely the experience of tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of women living in capitalist Ireland. They regularly face violence, attacks, assaults and even the threats of further repercussions if they dare to speak out. And when they do, this is the result. It’s a grim reminder that none of the state’s institutions – neither the gardaí, the courts nor the government – exist to protect them. This whole system needs to be done away with!

Capitalist justice is no justice

The message the court ruling is sending is loud and clear: If you serve the capitalist state then you can freely brutalise women in the street with virtually no repercussions. Sickeningly, this isn’t an isolated case; it is only the most recent part of a long history of the state protecting abusers.

Last year David O’Gorman pleaded guilty to attacking his girlfriend. He had beaten her so savagely that it permanently displaced her right eye. And yet another suspended sentence was the result. Like Crotty he remains to this day a member of the defence forces. He was even sentenced by the same judge.

But to simply chalk this up to one bad judge misses the sheer scale of the problem. A report from the defence forces following the suspension of Crotty’s case shows at least 68 (current) members have been convicted of crimes or are currently before the courts. But this is only the members that report such cases to their commanding officers. Apparently there is no system to enforce such reports, so even the government must admit that the real numbers are likely much, much higher.

It seems Cathal Crotty is a ‘model’ of the army after all. A model of institutionalised sexism, misogyny and violence against the vulnerable and oppressed. In fact, even women inside the armed forces aren’t safe from this; a report last year found that a staggering 88 percent of women in the Irish Defence Forces have faced some form of sexual harassment. 

To be sure this is not only the case in the army, but the same is true in the gardaí where 12 current members are under suspension for sexual assault and misconduct. This on top of a similar history of abuses, violence and coverups. Again, even here the numbers are likely under-reported.

The rest of the state apparatus fares little better. Starting, of course, from the Catholic Church who, in connivance with consecutive Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments, has been responsible for a century of the most vicious oppression and violence against Irish women.

And it comes not only from within the branches of the capitalist state, there are countless cases of partners, friends, and strangers receiving suspended sentences for abusing women.

The whole system is rotten

It’s this background which makes Minister of State Malcolm Noonan’s, comments on Natasha’s case all the more sickening:

“There has to be a culture in this country for women to feel safe that they can make a complaint about gender-based violence and sexual assault and they’re going to be listened to … because currently there are far too many anomalies

Just how many ‘anomalies’ are needed before it is recognised that they’re not anomalies, but the necessary outcomes of this system?

The capitalist state (i.e., the justice system, the army, the Garda etc.) is not an ‘impartial’ arbiter set in to bring a ‘fairer’ society. Its only interest is in protecting its own and ultimately, in protecting the privileges, property, and profits of the rich and powerful. It is in such cases as Natasha O’Brien’s, as well as when it is mobilised against workers and youth, that we see the true nature of the capitalist state.

The misogynistic and sexist nature of the Irish capitalist state is no accident. The state, class society and capitalism were built on the oppression of women and in defence of private property. They all go hand-in-hand. This is true all the more in Ireland, where the ruling class, having betrayed the Irish revolution and having accepted the partition of Ireland in two, had to rest on everything that was backwards and reactionary in society to consolidate their rule. 

The oppression of women and all the horrors of capitalist society will only be completely overcome once private property and the state are done away with for good.

Revolution and liberation

Now the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will step in to appeal Crotty’s sentence, meaning he could still serve time yet. The pages of the capitalist press are being flooded with words of caution to the many protestors enraged by the court ruling: “Calm down, we have safety nets” they say. But this is far from the manna it is made up to be.

Firstly, the DPP’s intervention means Crotty will still get a lenient sentence since the original judge’s ruling will be considered alongside the DPP’s.

But second and most importantly, the DPP appealed only 37 cases in 2022. This is only a drop in an ocean of horrific attacks resulting in suspended sentences (or altogether acquittals). The only reason why this case is being picked up is because of the massive eruption of anger that it has sparked. But what about the dozens of similar cases that don’t provoke such outbursts? Far from acting as a safety net, the DPP is a safety valve that the ruling class has at its disposal to let the steam off a dangerous situation while keeping their system fully intact.

We can have no confidence in the capitalist government to solve the problem its system has created.

Like a child being scolded for misbehaving, all the representatives of capitalism can do is make empty promises to ‘ensure this never happens again.’ Simon Harris even had the cheek to say in an interview the other day, “Thank God for Natasha O’Brien!” If anyone else is yet to realise the scale of the issue, may we suggest that the Taoiseach be next to go and receive a beating from a trained army officer alongside our thanks to God for his efforts?

It is the same government looking to create a “safe culture for women” that is slashing social services such as women’s shelters left, right and centre. And it is the same government that is overseeing a dire housing crisis which makes it impossible for women in abusive relationships to leave.

But what else can they do? Irish capitalism is in a deep crisis and the necessary services women need can’t be paid for without cutting into the profits of the capitalists. As Connolly explained, “governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” Any government which is unwilling to break with capitalism will be organically incapable of improving the lot of women. No amount of tinkering around the edges of the state will change this. Either the problem is tackled at the root, or it will not be solved at all. 

Actually, the crisis of capitalism means violence against women is on the rise, not only in Ireland, but everywhere around the world. On our island, as many as 1 in 6 women have experienced physical or sexual violence. This system cannot be tinkered with, it needs to be overthrown!

If Crotty is brought to justice it will have nothing to do with the goodwill of the state or the better judgement of this or that individual. It will be because of the pressure applied by Irish workers and youth. This is the only force that is capable of making any meaningful change in society. We need to unite and fight to bring down this whole rotten system. We need revolutionary change to overthrow the capitalist system and its violent, oppressive state and to build a socialist society, based upon genuine equality, dignity, and respect for human life.