Garda inquiry under way into social media posts

One garda involved in policing housing protest referred to on Facebook as ‘dog’ and ‘scum’

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris  said gardaí were verbally and physically abused on the evening in question and that one Garda member suffered racial abuse.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said gardaí were verbally and physically abused on the evening in question and that one Garda member suffered racial abuse. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Social media posts in which a Garda member involved in policing a Dublin housing protest was identified and details of his daily routine published are at the centre of a criminal investigation.

The Garda member in question was referred to as a “dog” and “scum” with some Facebook messages insisting “violence will be met with violence”.

Gardaí are investigating reports of one Facebook user suggesting the officer identified be “murdered”.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said online comments highlighted the challenge being faced by gardaí upholding the law and “the importance of all right-thinking people supporting them in doing that”.

Threats against gardaí would not be tolerated and he expected the Garda to investigate the matter fully.

Garda Headquarters confirmed a criminal investigation was under way.

It added that “appropriate supports” had been put in place to “protect the welfare and safety” of the Garda member identified and threatened.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said: “Threats and intimidation against Garda members who are only doing their job to keep people safe and uphold lawful order are completely unacceptable. I utterly condemn it.”

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and Garda Representative Association (GRA) condemned the naming of gardaí and threatening Garda members on social media.

‘Social media abuse’

The GRA said the comments on RTÉ’s Late Late Show by John Connors last Friday had “led to vile social media abuse and threats” against Garda members.

On the programme, the actor described as “scum” the gardaí involved in last week’s policing operation as protesters occupying an office building on North Frederick Street were told to leave.

AGSI said the language used would only “serve to ignite further social media vitriol”.

A number of men, wearing balaclavas and acting for the landlord, went into the building last Tuesday and told activists from the Take Back the City housing group to leave in accordance with a High Court order.

The occupiers left but as the property was being secured, a large crowd of protestors gathered outside.

The Garda Public Order Unit was deployed. Some of them were wearing hoods or balaclavas and clashes ensued during which five arrests were made.

Riot helmets

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris last week described the wearing by gardaí of their Garda-issue hoods or balaclavas as “not correct”. He said they should only be worn with riot helmets.

However, he said gardaí were verbally and physically abused on the evening and that one Garda member suffered racial abuse. He pointed out that gardaí were solely present to keep order and never had a role in enforcing court orders.

The Facebook posts revealing the identity of one of the gardaí involved showed a photograph purporting to be him as one of the balaclava-wearing officers. A second photograph was also published of a garda on duty in regular uniform claiming it was the same person.

The Facebook account posted details of the named officer’s daily routine. Some Facebook users urged that his home address also be published.

‘Murdering’ gardaí

One Facebook user, who has previously been before the courts on charges relating to serious violence, suggested “murdering” gardaí. He added he would be willing to go to prison for targeting gardaí. His is now one of the comments under investigation.

Another Facebook user said publishing the officer’s name and photograph would strengthen the hand of those within the force calling for a ban on gardaí being photographed or videoed while on duty.

Another disagreed saying: “They will hide, they will suffer at their homes and social venues, they will be scared, they will stop.”