A PROPOSAL by the Garda Ombudsman Commission that it examine the handling of protests over the Corrib gas project should be reconsidered by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, according to Denny Larson, director of US-based Global Community Monitor.
The Garda ombudsman's annual report published earlier this month identified Mayo as one of three areas recording the highest number of complaints submitted to it about Garda actions. The ombudsman commission wrote to minister for justice Brian Lenihan, proposing that it carry out an examination of management of crowd protests and civil disobedience. However, the minister turned down the proposal, as he "did not feel that it was appropriate at that time".
Mr Larson said the €8.9 million spent by the State over the past 19 months providing Garda security was "being wasted due to deployment of untrained" gardaí in the Erris area.
Mr Larson, who is in Ireland with representatives of Global Community Monitor, an international environmental group, claims the public's right to demonstrate was being breached on a regular basis in north Mayo.
"We believe that there has been a Garda policy of making minimal arrests, but behaving in an intimidatory fashion towards objectors and towards residents in the area," he said.
"Clearly, from management of other protests we have looked at in Dublin, gardaí are trained in handling civil disobedience - but the policy applied in north Mayo has been very different and would appear to serve the interests of the Corrib gas developers, not the public interest," Mr Larson said.
This has been denied by the head of Mayo's Garda Síochána division, Chief Supt Tony McNamara, who said he "refuted totally" Mr Larson's claims.