Controversy over the Shell gas pipeline in Co Mayo has eroded trust in An Garda Síochána while threatening the culture and values of the area, an international investigation has found.
US-based human rights and environmental group Global Community Monitor (GCM) said the lack of intervention from a European or world level threatens to spark an even more explosive situation at Bellanaboy.
The organisation claims to have gathered evidence of garda brutality, malpractice and intimidation against campaigners opposed to the Corrib gas project.
It sent a five-member fact-finding delegation drawn from Holland, Belgium, England, South Africa and the USA to the area surrounding the contentious refinery for four days in February.
The group which included Bobby Sven Peek, the 1998 winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize – known as the ’Nobel Prize’ for the environment – said it had evidence of young people, women and the elderly being beaten without provocation by the gardaí.
“Even high ranking officers were personally involved in beating up protesters,” the delegation’s report states.
The probe found that gardai followed and confronted protestors who were going about their private business, officers verbally threatened people without cause and denied or delayed emergency medical treatment to injured campaigners.
Gardai also did not follow basic procedures such as displaying their identification badges and warning protestors before taking physical action, it concluded.
The delegation said people had lost faith in the force because they believed complaints were not being acted upon.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission said it is investigating 27 cases involving complaints against gardai policing the Corrib gas plant protests.
The GCM report said the behaviour of officers on various occasions implied they were either not trained in managing peaceful protests and civil disobedience or were not using their training.
The group toured the area around the pipeline and refinery speaking to residents, gardai and the media at the request of some members of the community.
It has urged global human rights organisations to further investigate the “crisis” while calling for legal action against any human rights abuses.