Thu, Dec
15 New Articles

Garda ‘rape tape’ unravels new Corrib twist

Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of two women protestors who were arrested last Thursday week by Gardai in Mayo and who were the subject of a video recorded conversation by Gardai, speaking at a press conference organised by the Shell to Sea campaign last Thursday. ?
SPEAKING OUT Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of two women protestors who were arrested last Thursday week by Gardai in Mayo and who were the subject of a video recorded conversation by Gardai, speaking at a press conference organised by the Shell to Sea campaign last Thursday. ?Pic: Alan Betson/THE IRISH TIMES

Garda ‘rape tape’ unravels new twist to Corrib controversy

Áine Ryan looks back at a dramatic week when the contents of a taped Garda conversation made national and international headlines

THIS COUNTY was put in the media spotlight a week ago for all the wrong reasons when The Mayo News dramatically revealed the contents of a tape, inadvertently recorded in a garda jeep after two female Corrib gas protestors were arrested.
The two women were brought to Belmullet Garda Station in separate vehicles and later released without charge. One of them had boarded the cab of a Shell tractor, traveling on the public road earlier, near Aughoose, site of preparatory works for a subsea tunnel for the controversial pipeline. 
During the conversationa Sergeant joked: “Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you.” To much laughter, a garda repeats the line, and, to further guffawing, the sergeant says: “I’ll definitely rape you.”
The five gardaí have since been assigned to desk duties in Castlebar, pending the outcome of two separate inquiries.
One of the women, a postgraduate student at NUI Maynooth, Jerrie Ann Sullivan, was forced to reveal her identity after what she claimed was sustained media intrusion. She told a Press Conference in Dublin last Thursday that she was very distressed by the incident and called for an international inquiry into the policing of the project. To date,  garda policing of Corrib has cost over €14 million and has been the subject of 111 complaints to the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Garda Inquiry
GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan acted quickly in the aftermath of the publication of the tape and immediately appointed a senior garda to investigate the incident. Superintendent Gearóid Begley, of Tuam, delivered his report to the commissioner’s desk by Thursday. Later that day, Commissioner Callinan confirmed the veracity of the tape, observing that he was deeply disappointed by the contents of the conversation. He also  confirmed he had sent copies of the report to the Minister for Justice and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), which had already initiated an inquiry, ‘in the public interest’.
Commissioner Callinan said: “I am sorry for the offence caused to the community we serve and for the hurt and pain felt, in particular, by victims of sexual crime.”
He continued: “I believe that this incident does not reflect the views or sentiments of the vast majority of gardaí who are out in the community every day working to protect and secure people’s safety. I am conscious however that people’s trust and confidence in our integrity must always be earned and maintained, and as Garda Commissioner my promise is to ensure that we will continually work to protect these vital and important aspects of our relationship with the community.”

Garda sanctions
REPORTEDLY, the offending gardaí are unlikely to face prosecution as there was no suggestion of any physical assault or battery. The two investigations will determine whether criminal or disciplinary proceedings are warranted. The 2005 Garda Síochana Act outlines a range of disciplinary breaches for gardaí in the course of their duties.
These include failing to behave with due courtesy to a member of the public, neglect of duty, abuse of authority through oppressive conduct towards a member of the public, and corrupt or improper practice. The breach of discipline schedule in this Act includes  the concept of discreditable conduct. This is where a garda conducts him or herself in a manner that he or she knows – or ought to know – would be reasonably be likely to bring discredit on An Garda Síochana. Individual gardaí who seriously breach disciplinary regulations can face a range of sanctions up to and including suspension and dismissal. In the most serious of cases, they could also face criminal proceedings. In this case, some commentators have suggested they will be sent for retraining and then relocated. However, the commissioner has not yet commented whatsoever on his plans and the GSOC report is still pending. 

Support groups
WHEN contacted by The Mayo News, Ms Ruth McNeely, Director of the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre said, in a statement, that the ‘overall experience of helping women and girls report such crimes to the Gardaí has, in 16 years in the county town, been positive’.
She continued: “However the comments on the tape, disclosed over the last few days, are very worrying, disturbing and will have an impact on some victims’ decisions to report.  It is never easy to report a crime of a sexual nature. Rape is a weapon of war in many places and the apparent lack of understanding of the gardaí on the tape does not help us in encouraging the reporting of sexual crimes …Comments such as these will have an effect on any victim’s confidence coming forward and sadly play into the hands of sexual offenders.”
The National Women’s Council called on the Garda Commissioner to act.
“Women need to be reassured that if they are raped or sexually assaulted they can report it to gardaí who understand that these are deeply traumatic experiences. They must not be left wondering if their distress will be a source of amusement,” said Chief Executive Susan McKay.
Dublin Rape Crisis Centre organised a protest outside the Dáil last Friday morning, which was attended by a broad section of support groups and concerned individuals.

Second tape
AT  last Thursday’s press conference, John Monaghan, spokesman for north Mayo community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin revealed the contents of another tape which allegedly recorded an unsavoury exchange with a garda during a protest in 2006, a period of high tension at the refinery site of Bellanaboy.
Mr Monaghan said the remarks were of a derogatory sexual nature about his wife, Bríd Ní Sheighin, a principal teacher in a local national school.
The Garda Ombudsman Commission declined to investigate the tape as it was not lodged within the six-month time-frame.

Taoiseach’s response
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny told RTÉ News last week that the alleged comments were entirely inappropriate.
“I’ll wait and see the result of the investigation both by the Garda and the ombudsman but I have to say that these remarks, if they are true, are completely inappropriate for any member of the Garda to make about anybody,” Mr Kenny said.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also expressed his shock at the remarks, while the Association of Garda Superintendents said its members never encountered gardaí making disparaging remarks about the crime of rape.
“The reported remarks are not reflective of what generally takes place within the organisation on a day to day basis,” Association President Garda Supt Jim Smith said.
Minister  for Justice, Alan Shatter said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, on Wednesday last, that he wanted to assure anyone who is a victim of a sexual offence or rape that they will get full support from the Garda Síochána.  He said he didn’t want to prejudge a matter that  was under investigation but it was hugely important that members of the gardaí act appropriately when in interactions with the public.
When asked would he have an open mind in re-examining the policing of the Corrib gas project,  he said he would come to that matter again when the investigations were complete.
Friends of the Earth and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) have sent a joint letter to the Chair of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Mr Dermot Gallagher, requesting that GSOC conduct a ‘root and branch’ review of Garda practices, policies and procedures on public order.

Far from harmless banter
‘Rape tape’ still not with Ombudsman
Garda Commissioner apologises for ‘rape tape’ comments
‘Rape-Tape’ woman to reveal identity
Gardaí in Corribgate scandal