"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
FIVE gardai at the centre of the "rape tape" controversy have been cleared of any criminal or serious disciplinary offence by an independent inquiry.
The Irish Independent has learned that the probe has cleared them of serious wrongdoing, after comments about female protesters at the Corrib oil pipeline were caught on tape.
The investigation was carried out by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, which is due to publish its final report on its findings later today.
But this newspaper last night learned that all five gardai, including a sergeant, have been cleared of any serious wrongdoing. It is understood that the report will find against one garda in relation to a minor offence.
The report has been forwarded to the garda authorities and copies of the findings will now be circulated to all interested parties before publication.
A decision on whether any disciplinary action should be taken as a result of the report will be determined by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan (pictured).
The incident known as the Corrib "rape tape" controversy arose from remarks made by gardai while discussing the female demonstrators.
The remarks included a comment about rape while the five gardai were in a patrol car on their way back from a pipeline protest to Belmullet station in Co Mayo.
But three of them were inadvertently recorded on a tape discussing the arrest earlier that day of two female protesters.
The women were taken to the station for questioning in another car.
Both women, who were third-level students, were arrested on a road near the Corrib pipeline works at Aughoose.
On the tape, several gardai were heard discussing their identity. One garda said one of the women "sounds like a Yank or Canadian" and another garda responded: "Well, whoever, we'll get immigration f**king on her."
The two gardai then joked about threatening to deport and rape the woman if she did not give her name and address.
An initial report on the incident was carried out by Supt Gearoid Begley from Tuam, Co Galway, and this was sent to the Garda Commissioner.
The commissioner then issued an order confining the five gardai to indoor administrative. He also issued an apology over the remarks.
One of the five gardai was already based in Castlebar, two of the others were transferred there from Belmullet and the rest from Bangor Erris and Ballina.
Copies of that report were sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter and the ombudsmancommission, which began its own inquiry into the incident -- due to be published today.
An interim report from the Ombudsman Commission last summer said that at no stage were either of the women involved threatened personally.
But it said the transcript supported allegations that gardai joked about "deporting them from Ireland, on enlisting the support of the garda national immigration bureau to harass them and other comments of an inappropriate nature".
One of the women agreed to be interviewed by the commission but the second did not co-operate.
Although five gardai were initially under investigation, two were cleared at an early stage and a third man was exonerated in the interim report. A fourth member has since retired from the force.