Commenting on recordings apparently showing gardaí joking and laughing about rape, Mr Shatter said it was of “huge importance” that all gardaí act in a “considered” and “respectful” manner.
He joined Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to reassure victims of sexual violence. “I want to assure anyone who is a victim of a sexual offence or rape that they will get a full and proper considered approach from the Garda Síochána, that they should not have any doubt about that.”
Speaking on RTÉ, he said that given that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the gardaí were investigating the matter, he would not comment specifically on the recordings.
Mr Shatter said he would be “open” to a request from GSOC to conduct a general investigation into the policies and practices of gardaí in relation to their handling of the protests over the Shell gas project in north Mayo.
“There have been enormous difficulties in that area,” Mr Shatter said.
But, he added: “I think it is unacceptable that a small group can effectively obstruct and create unnecessary difficulty in the lawful development — such as taking place down there — and indeed bringing ashore essential natural resources that can be of benefit to this state. Of course, in policing matters at all times, matters must be dealt with fully and correctly and not give rise to any cause of concern.”
Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said he hoped once the GSOC finished this investigation, it would ask the minister to carry out a general review of policing in Corrib and that the minister would agree.
In relation to the tape, Mr Kelly said: “Rape is one of the most serious crimes on the statute book, one of the most heinous crimes, and it should never be a joking matter, especially for people whose job it is to receive reports of sexual assaults.
“There’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever, if, and I have to stress if, this tape is authenticated it can only bring discredit the force and there will be a need to rebuild that confidence.”
In the Dáil, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore expressed his “shock”. He said: “Rape is a heinous crime. It is not something that should be threatened, trivialised or laughed at by anyone.”