“It would be a question of the utmost public concern if an undercover officer were effectively permitted to operate without justification, authorisation or oversight in Ireland.”
One year on from the ‘rape tape’ incident - when Gardaí in north Mayo inadvertently recorded themselves joking about threatening to rape and deport two female Shell to sea protesters then in their custody - there is still no word of any disciplinary action against any Garda involved. Following a Garda ombudsman inquiry, none of the five are to be charged and only two face an internal disciplinary inquiry.
In Light of the controversy, Garda authorities may have been hoping that the affair would be quietly forgotten about. However, a very public retirement party at the Broadhaven Bay Hotel recently for Sgt James Gill, the most senior of the Gardaí whose voices were heard on the infamous recording, attracted much local attention.
Local Shell to Sea campaigners were incensed by the shindig, at which the speakers included Mayo TD and FF justice spokesman Dara Calleray. Off-duty gardaí arriving at the farewell bash were greeted by an anti-Gill protest outside the hotel. On-duty gardaí broke up the protest, smashed and confiscted placards and arrested one protester.
Gill had policed the anti-Shell protests over a number of years. The wording on the placards outside the hotel that night related not so much to the 'rape tape’ as to another Gill matter that has angered anti-Corrib protesters: his defamation action against local fisherman and prominent campaigner, Pat 'The Chief’ O’Donnell. Last December O’Donnell - star of the award winning documentary film The Pipe - was ordered to pay € 33,000 in damages to Gill at Castelbar Circuit Court.
Gill claimed O’Donnell had accused him of stealing diesel and smuggling tyres.The comments were allegedly made during a Corrib protest in 2006, in earshot, Gill claimed, of Gardaí and protesters. O’Donnell,who had denied the allegations, appealed to the High Court.
The basis for the appeal was O’Donnell’s contention that the judge who awarded Gill the €33,000 in the Circuit Court, Margaret Heneghan, “could be perceived to be biased”. According to documents submitted by O’Donnell, the Crossmolina secondary school she attended from 1972-’77; and both had attended a school reunion in 1997.
In the High Court in February, Justice Michael Peart ruled this did not amount to objective bias and refused leave for a judicial review. Gill has since lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court.