Lobby groups condemn alleged garda 'rape' jokes as Ombudsman investigates

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Amnesty, the Council for Civil Liberties and One in Four have all condemned comments allegedly made by gardaí in Co Mayo, in which they allegedly joked about threatening to rape a female anti-Shell protestor who had been arrested.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Amnesty, the Council for Civil Liberties and One in Four have all condemned comments allegedly made by gardaí in Co Mayo, in which they allegedly joked about threatening to rape a female anti-Shell protestor who had been arrested.

Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said any suggestive remarks about rape were not acceptable, whatever the circumstances, "but because they were in uniform, this is absolutely unacceptable".

She added that based on her experience, the comments were not reflective of a general attitude in the Force.

Meanwhile, the Garda Ombudsman is investigating the alleged comments.

Their damning conversation was inadvertently taped after a video camera seized from the activists was left recording in the back of a patrol car.

Amnesty International, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and politicians accused the officers of an abuse of power and breach of trust.

One of the campaigners at the centre of the scandal, a member of the anti-Corrib group Shell to Sea, insisted the threats would not deter her from protesting.

“These are supposed to be the men that women go to if they experience a sexual assault or harassment. Who are they supposed to go to now?” she asked.

A 37-minute clip of the conversation has been viewed more than 11,000 times online.

It includes threats to deport and rape one of the protesters who refused to give her name.

One garda starts the conversation off saying that one of the women “sounds like a Yank or Canadian”.

Another officer joins in: “Well, whoever, we’ll get immigration f****** on her.”

A more senior garda, understood to be a sergeant, adds: “She refused to give her name and address and was told she would be arrested.”

A colleague joins in: “And deported.”

Before the sergeant says: “And raped.”

Jonathan O’Brien, Sinn Féin justice spokesman, said gardaí had a lot of questions to answer.

“For somebody to put their trust in the gardaí and to have it betrayed in this manner, it’s not on and it’s very disturbing,” he said.

Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy called for the officers to be suspended immediately.

“The remarks are stomach-churning and illustrate a culture within the gardaí in Rossport of absolute disregard and dehumanisation of protesters,” he said.

A superintendent from outside Co Mayo has been brought in to oversee an internal investigation into the allegations.

Formal complaints are to be lodged with the Garda Ombudsman from the two women and also Sinn Féin.

The unnamed protester said she would be back at the Mayo protests, now in their eighth year, despite worries over what the gardaí said and publicising the recording.

“I think in the beginning it was just shock but because I’ve had to listen to it many times it seems to get more disturbing the more I hear it,” she said.

“It’s terrifying for campaigners but it’s much more serious for women living in the area.

She added: “I’ve had the privilege of being around the community in north Mayo and hearing what they have been through. I don’t think there’s a more important place in Ireland for me to be than there in solidarity with them.”

Shell to Sea protest spokeswoman Caoimhe Kerins said: “This is shocking and extremely serious. It is very frightening for those of us involved in the campaign.”

Divisive dispute

Corrib has been the most bitterly divisive industrial project in Ireland for a decade.

Some opponents criticise the State contract with Shell which guarantees the energy giant massive profits from natural gas fields containing tens of millions, if not billions of euro, worth of supplies.

Locals have fought for years over the pipeline route in the north Mayo Gaeltacht – across bogland, near isolated homes and through Sruwaddacon Bay, an area of outstanding beauty, and the high pressure being used to pump gas onshore.

Five men, the Rossport Five, spent 94 days in jail in 2005 after refusing to agree not to protest.

One of them, Willie Corduff, was badly beaten by a private security firm in a late night sit down protest in 2009.

Sinn Féin claimed there were wider questions over the policing of Corrib, which has cost €14m up to January 2010.

There have been 111 complaints to the Garda Ombudsman over policing at Corrib - 78 were deemed admissible and seven files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

One file, dealing with a number of incidents and officers, was sent to the Garda Commissioner’s office calling for disciplinary procedures.

No action has been taken. The ombudsman’s public interest inquiry is only the sixth of its kind since the office was officially opened in May 2007.

Following the publication of the recording, an observer from the Frontline human rights group is to be sent to Mayo to monitor policing.

During the conversation the officers appear to egg each other on.

The senior officer says: “Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you.”

There is laughter and another officer says: “Hold it there, give me your name and address there, I’ll rape you.”

The senior replies: “Or I’ll definitely rape you.”

Susan McKay, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, called on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan to act immediately against the officers at the centre of the scandal.

“These officers displayed levels of sexism and stupidity that are extremely worrying in a 21st century police force,” she said.

Leading sex abuse support group One in Four said it was astonished to hear gardaí appear to totally abuse their power.

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