Up to 100 objectors to the Shell gas project staged a protest outside Belmullet Garda Station on Saturday.
They called for the “immediate suspension” of the five gardaí and the setting- up of an independent international investigation into the policing of Corrib in general.
The five gardaí were caught on a video recorder having a conversation among themselves after they arrested two female protestors at Aughoose, Co Mayo, last Thursday week.
Up to three of them were recorded laughing and joking about raping one of the women. They had earlier confiscated the recorder from them, but did not check to see if it was still recording. The women were not present at the time.
Four of the five gardaí were transferred from Belmullet to Castlebar by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last Thursday, pending the investigation by the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). The fifth garda is already based at Castlebar station.
They have been confined to administrative duties by the Commissioner until the GSOC investigation is complete.
Mr Callinan said he made this decision after reading an internal fact-finding report compiled by a garda superintendent.
He said this report had indicated that the conversation as recorded on the tape “did take place” between the gardaí and the “words reported were used”. The Commissioner said he was “deeply disappointed” and apologised for the offence caused to the community, particularly to victims of sexual violence.
This report was forwarded to the GSOC, which has examined its contents.
As reported last Saturday, the GSOC has already interviewed a number of the gardaí involved. It is thought these may be the two gardaí who were in the car at the time, but did not engage in any of the rape comments. They would be treated as witnesses.
The GSOC team has not yet managed to speak formally to either of the two women concerned. The women cancelled appointments to go to GSOC offices last Thursday morning.
It is understood that the watchdog has not been able to rearrange another appointment, nor has the GSOC been able to access or analyse the original tape.
GSOC investigators would prefer to have formal statements from the women and have satisfied themselves as to the authenticity of the recording before interviewing the key gardaí involved.
Gardaí are entitled to have a representative from their staff association or a lawyer present during interviews.
Speaking at a conference organised by Dublin Shell to Sea last Thursday, one of the women, Jerrie Ann Sullivan said she had very little faith in the GSOC and backed Dublin Shell to Sea’s calls for an international investigation.
The acts of the gardaí concerned are most likely to be considered a breach of discipline, rather than a criminal offence of any kind. In that situation, the GSOC will probably recommend that the Garda Commissioner institute disciplinary proceedings.