Garda apologises over comments

 

The Garda Commissioner has apologised after a number of gardaí were inadvertently recorded on a camera making jokes about threatening to deport and rape a Corrib protester. 

In a statement this evening, Commissioner Martin Callinan said he had received a file on the incident from Supt Gearóid Begley of Tuam division, who was appointed to conduct an internal investigation.

“I am deeply disappointed by its contents which indicate that this conversation did take place between members of An Garda Síochána and that the words reported were used," he 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.”

Mr Callinan said he has forwarded details of the report’s findings to the Minister for Justice and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told the Dáil today the five gardaí involved are to be confined to office duties in Castlebar pending an inquiry. He said four would be moved to from their current posts to Castlebar while the fifth officer is already stationed there.

In his statement, Mr Callinan said he does not believe the attitude displayed by the gardai involved was a reflection of the whole force.  “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."

The Garda ombudsman initiated an inquiry on Tuesday as a “matter of public interest”, following the revelation that gardaí were inadvertently recorded on a video camera making jokes about threatening to deport and rape one of the women.

The video camera was confiscated from one of the women after their arrest for alleged public order offences at the Shell Corrib gas pipeline site at Aughoose last Thursday. The women were taken in separate vehicles to Belmullet Garda station, where they were later released without charge. They later discovered the camera had not been switched off after it was taken from them.

Jerrie Ann Sullivan, one of the women at the centre of the controversy, attended a Shell to Sea press conference today in Dublin where she expressed a lack of confidence in the Garda ombudsman’s ability to investigate the gardaí involved and appropriately sanction them.

Ms Sullivan said more than 100 complaints have been made over the past two years about gardaí policing the anti-Shell protests in Mayo but none of the officers had been sanctioned where complaints were upheld. “That doesn’t leave you with a huge amount of hope,” she said.

The other woman arrested with Ms Sullivan was not at the press conference today and does not wish to be named in the media.

Ms Sullivan said when she and her fellow protester were released from custody, they realised the camera had recorded 40 minutes of conversation in a car carrying some of the gardaí who had been part of the arrest party.

“We were deeply disturbed by what we heard. It was deeply chilling to hear the gardaí in the car laughing at the prospect of raping the other woman.”

Shell to Sea and Ms Sullivan now want an independent international inquiry established to examine policing around the Corrib gas pipeline protests.

Ms Sullivan said she had decided to come forward and speak out about her experiences because journalists had called to her home in Dublin looking for an interview. She now wanted privacy. “This is not about us. This is about women’s safety and about the ongoing intimidation of the communities living close to Shell’s inland refinery site in Mayo," she said.

Caoimhe Kerins of Shell to Sea told journalists at today’s press conference an independent inquiry must be established to examine the security operation around the Corrib protests.

“For years, human rights organisations have been sending observers to the area, they’re not doing that without reason,” said Ms Kerins. “The response of An Garda Síochána and the State to the rape comments has been disgracefully inadequate.

“Garda representative bodies have failed to condemn the behaviour of these gardaí. The gardaí in question have not been suspended. This is yet another example of the culture of impunity surrounding policing of the Corrib protests.”

Garda sources say they believe the matter will most likely be handled as an internal disciplinary matter. Possible sanctions could range from suspension or monetary fines to dismissal. Dismissal of the gardaí is not regarded as the likely outcome, a number of sources have said.