LORNA SIGGINS, Western Correspondent
A SENIOR garda officer has been appointed to investigate the treatment of two women who were arrested during protests over the Corrib gas project late last week.
Members of the force were inadvertently recorded on a video camera they had earlier confiscated joking about threatening to deport and rape one of the women who had refused to give her name to officers.
The video camera was not fully switched off after it was seized by gardaí and it recorded exchanges between several gardaí in the vehicle in which they were travelling.
The two women were arrested on a public road last Thursday about 30 minutes after one of them had been taken down from the roof of a tractor hired for Shells preparatory work on the Corrib gas pipeline at Aughoose.
Both women were released without charge.
They are upset about the exchanges that were recorded and say they were manhandled by several officers during their arrest near the Shell compound for the new Corrib gas pipeline route in north Mayo.
The woman who was carrying the video camera says she had her arms forced until she dropped the camera, and sustained bruising. Her colleague says she was treated in an unnecessarily physical fashion.
Both women said they wished not to be named, and neither wanted to comment on the record on the incident.
Supt Pat Diskin of Belmullet Garda station said a senior garda from outside the division had been appointed to establish the facts and report on the matter.
The women were arrested for public order-related offences, and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
An academic at NUI Maynooth, where one of the women is studying, has condemned as outrageous the content of some recorded conversation.
The camera on which the exchanges were recorded is believed to have been the property of the college.
It was some hours after their release that the women discovered their camera, which was returned to them, had not been switched off.
It was in the possession of gardaí leaving the scene in a separate car, and during the journey it had recorded exchanges between several gardaí.
One garda can be heard on the tape saying that one of the women sounds like a Yank or Canadian. Another garda said: well, whoever, well get immigration f***ing on her.
A more senior garda picked up the conversation, saying she refused to give her name and address and [was] told she would be arrested.
And deported, his colleague continued. And raped, the more senior garda said.
The conversation continued in jocular fashion, with the more senior garda saying: Give me your name and address or Ill rape you.
Amid some laughter, another garda said: Hold it there, give me your name and address there, Ill rape you.
Or Ill definitely rape you, the more senior garda responded.
The 37-minute recording also features differences of opinion between the gardaí in the car over use of equipment and training to deal with protests.
One garda expressed concern about responsibility in court proceedings if a protester was injured during removal, and it transpired that there was insufficient equipment or training. His senior disagreed, and said it was a matter of common sense.
Dr Bríd Connolly, lecturer in NUI Maynooths adult and community education department, confirmed that one of the women arrested was a student at the college.
This recording is an affront to women, an affront to freedom to protest, and rape is not a joking matter, Dr Connolly said.
How can women who have been assaulted have any confidence in the Garda if this is the sort of attitude that prevails?
It undermines the work done with the Garda by rape crisis centres and Womens Aid, and takes us back 40 to 50 years, Dr Connolly added.
COMMENT ADDED TO ARTICLE
stpadraig on Apr 5th, 2011 at 9:25 am
This is disgraceful. I have a young daughter that I reared with strong morals. She goes out to exercise her right to protest against various wrongs including this unscrupulous and underhanded give away of natural resources.
The thought of a vicious, unruly and unlawful band of thugs, acting as police officers, and putting their filthy hands on my daughter is just too much to bear.
Carefully chosen men for the job I guess this is NOT a free country,
Pádraig Ó Braonáin