"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
Jerrie Ann Sullivan, the protester who made public the recording in the Corrib ‘rape tape’ controversy, has said that the Garda Ombudsman’s investigation into the incident was ‘about protecting An Garda Síochána’. Her comments were made after the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission published its report last week. The report cames more than one year after the ‘rape tape’ story was first broken by Mayo News reporter, Áine Ryan.
The GSOC public-interest investigation was started on April 5, 2011, after the release of the ‘rape tape’ – a recording on which a number of gardaí could be heard joking about threatening to rape and deport Ms Sullivan, an NUI Maynooth postgraduate student. Ms Sullivan had been arrested, along with another female protester, on public-order offences near the Corrib Gas Project on March 31, 2011.
The Garda watchdog said there were no grounds for any criminal case, ‘due to insufficient evidence’, against any of the five officers – four rank-and-file gardaí and one sergeant – involved.
The GSOC has recommended that disciplinary proceedings be taken against one of the gardaí at the centre of the investigation, however. While the GSOC states that it was of the opinion that ‘there may [also] be a disciplinary case to answer in respect of the Sergeant’, he is not subject to any disciplinary proceedings, as he retired from the force on November 1 last.
In a statement issued after the release of the report, Ms Sullivan said that she was ‘not at all surprised’ at the recommendations of the report ‘considering how An Garda Síochána, the Garda Ombudsman and Justice Minister Alan Shatter have handled this incident and the Corrib project generally’.
“No Garda has ever been disciplined over policing of Corrib. With a police force under the direct control of government ministers, this report is predictable – just as it was predictable from the start that the Ombudsman investigation would protect the Gardaí. This is the same reason that people campaigning against Corrib have stopped making official complaints about Gardaí,” she said.
In her statement, Ms Sullivan also referred to ‘a campaign of spin and misinformation’ by the Garda Ombudsman, arguing that the body misled the public and undermined the women who made the recording public, ‘by falsely implying that the ‘rape’ recording had been tampered with’.
She said the scope of last week’s report did ‘nothing to address the real reasons that Gardaí felt free to talk flippantly about raping campaigners’, which she attributed to a ‘policing culture of violence and disrespect’ at the Corrib Gas Project.
Caoimhe Kerins of Dublin Shell to Sea said The Garda Ombudsman’s investigation and report ‘sends out several messages’. “Firstly, the report seems to suggest it is acceptable for serving Gardaí to joke about raping people in their custody.
“Also, the treatment of those who brought the recording to public attention sends out the message that people who criticise or embarrass An Garda Síochána can expect repercussions, not only from Gardaí but also from the very body tasked with being an independent watchdog,” said Ms Kerins.
Prior to the publication of the report, a group of seven academics from NUI Maynooth sent a letter to the GSOC strongly criticising the handling of the then ongoing investigation. Among the complaints was an assertion that Ms Sullivan had been ‘subjected to lengthy and aggressive questioning’.
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‘Rape tape’ report recommends garda be disciplined