"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.”
THE sergeant at the centre of the "rape tape" controversy was commended by State prosecutors for his investigations of rape cases -- one case as recent as last year.
The sergeant was also commended by colleagues for his investigations of serious crimes in the Mayo district, where he has been stationed for many years.
Colleagues say the comments by the sergeant, who is married with children, are totally out of character with his record in investigating sensitive crimes, including rape.
In one complex investigation of rape, sources said he was commended by State prosecutors for his work on the case.
The sergeant's record of investigating rape was disclosed this weekend following damaging revelations that he and two colleagues allegedly joked about raping and deporting a woman protester who was arrested for public order offences.
The "rape tape" controversy has been deeply embarrassing and damaging to the force, which has been trying to improve its record on investigating sex crimes.
Martin Callinan, the Garda Commissioner, apologised last week for the offence caused to the community. All five gardai involved in the case have been confined to desk duties and four were transferred pending an investigation by the Garda Ombudsman.
However, a Sunday Independent opinion poll has found that while most people were appalled at the behaviour of the gardai in question, only 18 per cent believed they should be sacked.
Separately, Michael McDowell, a former justice minister, warned today of the importance of getting gas ashore in Mayo: "Whatever offensive crudities were spoken in a squad car in Mayo, we, as a nation, need to get the gas ashore in Mayo.
"If the loony Shell to Sea campaign succeeds, Ireland will suffer irreparable damage," he added.
The gardai arrested two women protesters and seized their video camera. The women were put into a garda car bound for Belmullet garda station. The sergeant and four others took the video camera and travelled separately in another car. They were unaware that it was still recording.
According to a transcript of the recording, the sergeant says of one of the women that she "refused to give her name and address and (was) told she would be arrested". Another garda says: "And deported". The sergeant allegedly added: "And raped". He laughs and later is heard saying: "Give me your name and address and I'll rape you."
The woman who was the butt of the crude remarks has not gone public. The second woman, Jerrie Ann Sullivan, a postgraduate student said: "The words used were horrifying and have caused deep distress."
The Sunday Independent opinion poll suggests that most respondents do not favour sacking the gardai in question. Only 18 per cent of those polled believed they should be sacked. A majority of 58 per cent said they believed the gardai should be reprimanded and re-trained. Six per cent thought they should be prosecuted. Another 18 per cent said they should be sacked and prosecuted.
One city-dwelling female respondent said there could be "no trust in the gardai" unless action was taken.
Another female respondent who lives in the country, said: "I think they were comments made by frustrated gardai. No doubt that they were wrong but I don't think it reflects on their ability to do their job and it's clear they meant no harm by the comments."
- MAEVE SHEEHAN Exclusive