Representative body denies culture of misogyny in force


REACTION:THE ORGANISATION representing rank-and-file gardaí has denied there is a culture of misogyny in the force and said it would never condone sexist or misogynistic remarks by any of its members.

The Garda Representative Association declined to comment in detail yesterday on a case in which officers in Co Mayo were recorded making derogatory comments about two women who had been arrested at a protest at the Corrib gas project.

Association general secretary PJ Stone said the remarks, which were caught on tape, would be “a source of embarrassment” for the force if proven to be true.

Women’s groups and groups dealing with victims of abuse sharply criticised the remarks attributed to the officers, while Sinn Féin called for an immediate investigation.

In a statement last night, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he wished to re-emphasise the importance of combining professionalism with sensitivity and compassion in the investigation of sexual crimes.

The statement made no reference to the Corrib controversy but stated: “An Garda Síochána will continue to work closely with support organisations for victims of sexual crime and other victim-support groups to ensure that our policy and approach to the investigation of sexual crime meets, first and foremost, the needs of victims.

“We have stated clearly in the past and I want to say again this evening that a positive and compassionate attitude from members of An Garda Síochána is vital. That is our clear policy. That is the message delivered in our training. That is what we expect of gardaí,” he continued.

“I want the message to go out to the community and particularly to victims of sexual crime that they should report those crimes to gardaí who can take the necessary steps to vindicate and protect their rights and I want to assure them that they will be met with compassion and sensitivity.”

Earlier, the National Women’s Council had called on the Garda Commissioner to act on the case. “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.

Mr Stone expressed the hope that the public would “look beyond this” to maintain confidence and trust in the Garda. He said the kind of remarks on the tape were “not something you make excuses about” or condone. The incident was the subject of two inquiries, by the Garda Commissioner and the Garda Ombudsman, and it ought to be dealt with in this disciplinary context, he said.

Joe Dirwan, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, said he was not aware of the issue, having been in meetings all day, and could not comment.

The Garda Inspectorate said it would be inappropriate for it to comment on an ongoing investigation. Further, the matter did not fall within its statutory remit.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris said there were “lots of incidents” that needed investigating in relation to the Corrib project. He described as obscene the €20 million bill for policing.

The Rape Crisis Centre described the comments as unacceptable in any context but even more serious when made by people in authority. “Making suggestive comments about rape and sexual assault is not funny whatever the situation or circumstances,” said chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop.