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Irish police chief apologises for officers who joked about raping protesters

Rowenna Davis - The Guardian

Men recorded joking about sexually assaulting women they had taken into custody after a gas pipeline protest in county Mayo

Gardai rape threat allegationsWomen's groups gather outside the Irish parliament in Dublin to protest about the officers' comments. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA


Ireland's police chief has been forced to apologise for the behaviour of several officers who were unwittingly recorded joking about raping two women protesters in their custody.

Garda commissioner Martin Callinan said five members of his force had been confined to desk duties while the police watchdog, Garda Ombudsman, investigates.

"I am sorry for the offence caused to the community we serve and for the hurt and pain felt, in particular, by victims of sexual crime," Callinan said.

The apology came just hours after the two women protesters involved went public to demand an independent inquiry into the policing of oil giant Shell's contentious Corrib gas pipeline project, on the north Mayo coastline.

Jerrie Ann Sullivan, a postgraduate student from Dublin, said that the remarks – unwittingly recorded on a video camera that officers thought broken – had been deeply traumatic.

"The words used were horrifying and have caused deep distress," she said. "This is just a glimpse of the reality of the intimidation and the violence the community has been facing for years."

Sullivan and the environmental campaigning group Shell to Sea have called for the police watchdog to widen its inquiry and for a separate independent investigation into the activities of a private security firm employed by Shell.

The two women had been arrested for blockading a road in the development of a new pipeline in Rossport, Mayo last week, but were released without charge the same night.

In the recording released on the Indymedia website, officers can be heard laughing and repeatedly saying: "Give me your name and address and I'll rape you."

John Monaghan, another protester who lives near the contentious pipeline project, released a second tape allegedly of a garda making sexual remarks about Monaghan's wife during a confrontation in 2006.

On Friday 200 protesters and women's rights groups demonstrated against police violence outside the Irish parliament in Dublin.

Brid Connolly, a lecturer at the National University of Ireland who has taught Sullivan and attended the protest, described the activist as a "wonderful student" who had been "very shaken by the incident".

"This is no longer just about the Shell pipeline, it's about the wider issue of the trivialisation of rape and all kinds of sexual violence," she said.

"Within a short space of time of this story coming out, more women protesters were being roughly attacked by gardai.

"Acts like these have been going on for years but they are not being treated as incidents of crime."

The pipeline project has been the source of long-running, divisive demonstrations that have cost more than ¤14m to police so far.

Activists say 111 complaints have been made against the police since campaigning began eight years ago, but no prosecutions have been made.


Posted Date: 
9 April 2011