MINISTER FOR Energy Pat Rabbitte has said the taped remarks made by gardaí about a female Corrib gas protester are “completely unacceptable”, but work will continue on the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.
However, he said he was open to anything that “encourages better communication” in relation to the controversial project.
Mr Rabbitte told The Irish Times yesterday that the particular remarks recorded in a patrol car on March 31st last were “stupid and unacceptable”. In the taped conversation, recorded on a video camera confiscated from one protester that was still switched on, two gardaí discussed the identity of two women from the Rossport Solidarity Camp whom they arrested on a public road near the Shell pipeline works at Aughoose some minutes earlier.
When one garda, surmised that one of the women “sounds like a Yank or Canadian”, another garda said: “Well, whoever, we’ll get Immigration f***ing on her.” The two gardaí then joked about threatening to deport and rape the woman if she did not give her name and address to them. The two women were travelling in separate vehicles to Belmullet Garda station, and only discovered the recording when the camera was returned to them on their release without charge.
One of the two women, postgraduate student Jerrie Ann Sullivan, has said she believes the experience is “not unique” in north Mayo. The second woman has not made any public comment.
The Garda Commissioner has issued an apology for the incident, five gardaí have been assigned to office duties in Castlebar, and an internal investigation has been forwarded to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission for its own inquiry into the incident in the public interest.
A separate taped conversation made public this week where an officer allegedly made sexually derogatory remarks about the wife of a Corrib protester in 2006 prompted renewed calls this week for a review of Garda and private security policing at Corrib.
The Friends of the Earth and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said yesterday they had sent a joint letter to Garda ombudsman chair Dermot Gallagher, requesting a “root and branch” review of Garda practices, policies and procedures on public order.
Mr Rabbitte said he did not see any connection with the incident and the Corrib gas project.
“The gardaí have been put in a difficult situation and, yes, it is very expensive for the taxpayer, but I do not believe this particular incident that is of concern is typical of the gardaí,” he said.
“What has happened has happened in relation to Corrib, and whatever one’s view the terminal is built,” he said. “What am I supposed to do when so much investment has gone in, and when there is the extraordinary decision to built a tunnel under [Sruwaddacon] bay?”
He said he had not talked to Shell EP Ireland since taking office, though he had met them in opposition some years ago. He was aware of the judicial review application taken by An Taisce and several residents, which seeks to challenge An Bord Pleanála’s approval of the Sruwaddacon estuary pipeline route on grounds that it is through a special area of conservation and in breach of EU directives.
A date has been set for a full hearing in the Commercial Court on October 5th. Mr Rabbitte said he had no letter from the company about their intentions in this regard, but it was his understanding work would continue.
Shell has said that it is involved in preparatory works.