Corrib Gardaí caught on confiscated camcorder
Investigation under way after ‘rape’ comments found on protestor’s tape
GARDAÍ in north Mayo who joked among themselves about raping two women they had just arrested during a Corrib gas protest on Thursday last are today (Tuesday) the subject of a Garda Ombudsman Commission complaint. A senior garda has also been appointed to investigate the matter.
The gardaí, one of whom was a sergeant, were en route to Belmullet Garda Station, while the two women whom they had arrested for public order offences were traveling in two other separate garda cars. The gardaí were not aware that a camcorder they had confiscated was still recording.
“Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you,” the sergeant said.
To much laughter another garda repeated: “Hold it there. Give me your name and address there… I’ll rape you.”
After more laughter, the sergeant repeated: “I’ll definitely rape you.”
At the time they were trying to deduce the nationality of one of the protestors whom they believed to be either American or Canadian.
While they mused over the fact that they should contact their colleagues in Immigration to ‘deport her’, the option of raping her also was discussed, amid laughs.
They identified the other woman who is Irish.
During the conversation about rape one garda also said to the sergeant: “I wouldn’t go that far yet. She was living down at that crusty camp, f**k sake, you never know what you might get.”
They were referring to the Rossport Solidarity Camp, where the women were staying. The camp was established some years ago to show support and solidarity to the local community opposed to the project. It has attracted varying numbers of supporters and environmental activists from all over the country and abroad.
After the women were transported to Belmullet garda station, about a 20-minute drive from the scene of the arrest, they were kept in separate cells, and released without charge shortly afterwards.
Earlier that morning one of them had boarded a Shell tractor, transporting bog mats to a new works site at Aughoose along the public road. She sat cross-legged on the cab, reading while the second woman videotaped the interactions when about eight gardaí, including members of the Public Order Unit, arrived on the scene.
After a female garda repeated a caution under the Public Order Act 1994, the protestor, amid some jostling, came down. The women were not arrested at the time but about 20 minutes later, while still on the roadside, they claim they were manhandled and treated roughly by the gardaí and were worried for their safety because the road was deserted at the time. They also admit they had been watching for another opportunity to board a Shell vehicle.
Unaware that they had been recorded, the Gardai returned the 37-minute tape to the women after their release without charge. They had been kept in custody, in separate cells, for about an hour.
Both women say they are too traumatized to be identified at this time but one of them may be willing to come forward later.
Speaking of her ordeal yesterday, one of them said a garda had tried to handcuff her but that when she insisted she was not resisting arrest, he stopped. She said the other protestor was treated roughly and has bruises on her arms. It was the American woman’s first day at the protest and she is still very shocked at her treatment,
“It wasn’t until the following day (Friday) when we were writing up a report that we noticed there the clip of footage was much longer than we remembered shooting. We expected there would be a lot of empty tape but instead … It was horrifying, I am just beginning to take it in,” the woman said.
“When on a protest they are treating you really roughly, you have an instinctive sense of danger, but you can’t put words on it, But then to hear them saying that word ‘rape’ so many times and then all the laughter. Every woman knows someone who has been a victim of sexual violence. These are the men that all our lives we are told are there to protect us and here they are talking about raping us,” she said, her voice shaking.
Commenting on the American woman’s ordeal, another solidarity camp member said: “I think she is clearly very shaken by the way they treated her. She had just arrived at the camp and her arms are bruised. On top of that, there was the rape conversation. It is just incredible.”
Ms Ellen Dunlop O’Malley, the Chief Executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said last night: “It is an awful shame there are still gardaí behaving in this manner. From our experience, it is not reflective of how the vast majority behave. There are fantastic gardaí out there who have gone the extra mile to assist victims of rape and sexual assault.”
NUI Maynooth academic Dr Bríd Connolly, a lecturer in the university’s Adult and Community Education Department, confirmed that one of the women was a student at the college.
“This recording is an affront to women, an affront to freedom to protest, and rape is not a joking matter,”Dr Connolly said.
“How can women who have been assaulted have any confidence in the Gardaí if this is the sort of attitude that prevails? It undermines the work done with the Gardaí by rape crisis centres and Women’s Aid, and takes us back 40 to 50 years,” she said.
Dr Connolly said she was aware that policing of the Corrib gas dispute was ‘very different’ to that applied at protests over construction of the M3 motorway at Tara.
THE tape, which includes video and audio footage, shows exchanges between the gardaí and the woman on the tractor cab. It also includes a conversation in the garda car about the merits of using proper safety equipment – such as harnesses and ladders.
One Garda surmises on the reaction of a court if a protestor is injured during removal, and it transpires that there is insufficient equipment or training.
“If someone gets hurt, we’re going to be on our own in the blocks,” the Garda says.
His senior officer disagrees and says it is a matter of ‘due diligence’ and ‘common sense’.
“At the end of the day, we have a certain duty of care to them. We ask them to get down, if they don’t get down we tell them we are taking them down forcefully. We take them down forcefully,” the sergeant says.
“We use whatever means at our disposal, which includes ladders and ropes or whatever to get them down safely.”
The gardaí also discuss the filling-in of overtime sheets.
Responding last night, Belmullet Superintendent Pat Diskin said he ‘understands that an officer had been appointed to establish the facts’ about this matter.
Policing Corrib costs
POLICING of the Corrib gas dispute has amounted to over € 14 million to date.
This huge sum is set to rise sharply over the coming months with expected protests increasing as Shell builds the longest raw gas pipeline tunnel in western Europe. The subsea tunnel, which is through a Special Area of Conservation, will take over two years to build and will involve around 472 truck movements a day, along the narrow, winding roads in this rural area.
A number of complaints about aspects of policing have been made to the Garda Ombudsman. A report by the Frontline human rights defenders’ organisation last year expressed concern about some aspects of policing the Corrib gas dispute by both the Garda and the private security firm employed by the developers.
The report, by barrister Brian Barrington, recommended that gardaí who had been involved for long periods on the dispute should be deployed to other duties, such as community policing.
It also suggested that the Garda Siochána should appoint a trained lawyer with relevant experience in human rights issues to review police policies and practices.
Meanwhile, Gardaí in Belmullet last night (Monday) confirmed that two people were being held in custody over public order offences related to the Corrib gas project.
It is understood that the two staged a “lock-on” protest from 7am yesterday (Monday) at the entrance to the Shell compound for the Corrib gas pipeline.
The full tape of the incident in question was made available to the public on Tuesday afternoon.
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