Union of Students say gardaí have questions to answer about student protest

The Union of Students in Ireland said gardaí have “questions to answer” about their policing of a student protest following a hard-hitting report by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

The Garda watchdog publicly criticised gardaí for a second time their alleged failure to co-operate with their investigation.

Last May, GSOC accused Garda bosses of failing to provide information during their investigation into the relationship between alleged Garda informers and officers.

At the weekend, GSOC published its report into 24 complaints by members of the public regarding the use of force by gardaí during a student protest on Nov 3, 2000, in Dublin.

In the report, the GSOC recommended that the Commissioner consider taking disciplinary action against four gardaí for their behaviour.

USI president Joe O’Connor said the report suggested members of the union were in some cases “targeted and had force used against them”.

He said it was now also clear that the “major risk to the safety of our members was a failure in policing and accountability”.

Mr O’Connor said: “The gardaí have further questions to answer about their conduct on the day and their subsequent failure to co-operate with the proper mechanisms for investigating their conduct.”

He said the union had condemned the protesters at the time: “USI would like to use this opportunity to officially withdraw that prior position. The actions of the gardaí on the day ran contrary to proper and safe policing. Rather than effectively handling the events as they unfolded, the actions of some gardaí instead lent to an exacerbation of the situation.”

Mr O’Connor said he was calling for an urgent meeting with the commissioner “to ensure that this apparent misconduct is put behind us and that student confidence in policing of lawful demonstrations by An Garda Síochána can be restored”.

On RTÉ yesterday, GSOC commissioner Kieran Fitzgerald said they made a request for information from the gardaí on Nov 26, 2010, but didn’t get a final response until Jul 31, 2011.

He said the protocol in place between the two organisations stipulated a 30-day response period.

“On this occasion we were asked to provide relevance and justify the requests on each occasion, something which we reject,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “We decide what’s relevant.”

He said they were given some information by Jul 2011 and told that no other reports existed.

“That turned out not to be entirely accurate in actual fact,” he said.

He said there were up to 60 individual reports by gardaí regarding the use of batons during the protest, but GSOC was only given a summary report.

“We feel we’ve been beating this drum for a while on several occasions that the gardaí have been slow, reluctant or perhaps both to co-operate to provide us with documentation.”

A Garda statement said they did not comment on matters of internal discipline.

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