One of the two women at the centre of the alleged garda ‘rape tape’ comments spoke publicly for the first time at a press conference in Dublin yesterday (Thursday ).
Jerrie Ann Sullivan said she felt forced to come forward because personal details had been leaked to selected journalists, at least one of whom called to the Dublin address she had provided at Belmullet Garda station last week.
“We want to be left alone. This is not about us. This is about women’s safety and about the ongoing intimidation of the communities living close to Shell’s inland refinery site in Mayo,” she said.
Shell to Sea has called for an independent international inquiry into policing of protests around the Corrib Gas project. Their call was backed by a number of public representatives who attended the press conference including TDs and councillors from Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, and several Independents. The call was also backed by Action From Ireland.
Details have also emerged of an incident in 2006 in which a garda is alleged to have made remarks of a sexually abusive nature during a protest at the Corrib gas site.
John Monaghan, a spokesperson for Pobal Chill Chomáin, said the alleged remarks referred to his wife. Mr Monaghan believes they should now be examined by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. He said he had recorded the alleged exchange on the audio track of his video camera and later made a transcript, which was submitted to an international monitoring group at a hearing in 2007.
A complaint he made to the Garda Ombudsman Commission at the time was not investigated as it was deemed to be outside the time limit for bringing a complaint.
Mr Monaghan said the original recording has since been erased, but a copy of part of it exists and he is now making it public.
He said he was doing so because it gave further context to the policing of Corrib gas protests.
Protests will be held in Dublin and Belmullet tomorrow (Saturday ) in support of the two women at the centre of the tapes controversy.
The two women, both third level students, have already lodged complaints with the Garda Ombudsman and an investigation into the matter is expected to be concluded as early as next week. The ombudsman investigators were expected to interview the gardaí yesterday (Thursday ).
On the controversial tapes gardaí are heard to make remarks about raping and deporting a Shell to Sea protester who was arrested at Aughoose last Thursday during a protest. There was also a discussion about the use of safety equipment when removing protesters from heights.
Five members of An Garda Siochana who were involved in the arrests of the two women have been interviewed as part of a separate internal Garda investigation. The investigation is being led by Superintendent Gearóid Begley from Tuam and an initial report was submitted yesterday to Garda Commissioner Martin Callanan, who will decide if disciplinary or criminal proceedings will be taken.
Possible sanctions could include suspension, monetary fines, or dismissal but it is not believed that the gardaí at the centre of the scandal will be dismissed from the force.
Tomorrow’s protest in Belmullet will take place outside the Garda station at 2pm and is said to be in support of all women and men who have been “harassed, threatened, and intimidated by gardaí”. Protesters will also demand the immediate suspension of the gardaí involved in the alleged rape and deportation remarks.
A second protest is taking place outside Dáil Éireann tomorrow and is being organised by a group of organisations and individuals concerned with justice, equality, and women’s and human rights. It will commence at 1pm and will support the right of women everywhere to protest without fear of rape or violence and demand an end to the trivialisation of rape.
Comments were shocking
The Rape Crisis Network are outraged at the remarks allegedly made by gardaí last Thursday. The women, who had been arrested for public order offences, were travelling in separate cars to Belmullet Garda Station and were released without charge after being detained for an hour. The video camera they had been using was taken in a separate Garda car back to the station but was not switched off properly and continued to record the conversation of the gardaí in the car.
“Joking about raping women is never funny and the Garda Commissioner must act immediately to show that the appalling attitudes displayed by members of the force are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Susan McKay, chief executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
Rape Crisis director Fiona Neary has called on An Garda Síochána to reassure the public that the gardaí involved in the enquiry will not be involved in ay sensitive area of Garda duty while the investigation is under way. “It is vital that any survivor considering reporting is assured that they will be treated with dignity and respect when they walk into a Garda station,” said Ms Neary.
Dublin Shell to Sea spokesperson Caoimhe Kerrins said the incident was “shocking and extremely serious”. She continued: “It is very frightening for those of us involved in the campaign. Gardaí are the people that women are supposed to trust when they need to report a rape. Gardaí are supposed to be responsible for bringing rapists to justice.”
Meanwhile Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has re-emphasised the importance of combining professionalism with sensitivity and compassion in the investigation of sexual crimes.
Pointing to the fact that this thread runs through An Garda Síochána's policy on the investigation of sexual crime which was published in the last 12 months, the Garda Commissioner said: “An Garda Síochána will continue to work closely with support organisations for victims of sexual crime and other victim support groups to ensure that our policy and approach to the investigation of sexual crime meets, first and foremost, the needs of victims.”
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has transferred the five gardaí involved in the Corrib tape controversy to indoor duties.
Four of the five have been transferred to Castlebar station.