Garda has not had an easy time as of late. Pilloried
from all directions it may be displaying the old RUC
syndrome of nobody likes us, everybody hates
us. Even Sinn Feins new found admiration
for the force, leading the party to claim it was the
only legitimate policing body in Ireland, took a nose
dive after Garda attempts to shape the outcome of
the North Kerry election result. And such negative
sentiment is only part of a widening discourse which
asks the most serious questions of the Garda for decades.
Probably not since the Kerry babies scandal has policing
been the subject of such public disquiet if not ridicule.
the McBrearty affair, corruption in Donegal, the handling
of information prior to the Omagh bomb and serious
public misgivings over police inflicted fatalities
all combining to provide an unhealthy backdrop it
was maybe a bit hopeful to expect that the response
of disaffected police members would be peaceful. And
when it came the government simply was not ready.
No water cannon, no Gardai control procedures, no
guards to guard the guards.
it was caught on camera the subsequent Garda riot
in Dublin city centre captured the public imagination
in a way that resonated of the late 1960s in the North
when a RUC knee in a nationalist groin grabbed everybody
by the curlies. Protestors taking part in a "reclaim
the streets" parade as part of an anti-capitalist
rally found themselves confronted by a mob of Gardai
seemingly intent on disturbing the peace and disrupting
public order. The Irish Human Rights Commission has
called for an independent inquiry into the attack
and the events that preceded it. The Commission president
Mr Justice Donal Barrington, opined that the Garda
should not inquire into the matter themselves 'because
they would not be seen to be independent." An
ombudsman, similar to that in the North would be more
suited to such matters.
hardly comes as a surprise then that the Garda should
view matters differently. Seeing public policing as
their own little fiefdom the force at the 24th annual
conference of the Garda Representative Association
(GRA) in Cork, through its general secretary, Mr P.J.
Stone, launched a broadside against all who might
share the view of Labour leader Ruairi Quinn that
the business of the public should be conducted in
public. For Stone the good name of those
who took part in the riot was being ruined by a minority
of citizens supported by the media. Moreover, he dismissed
the actions of the then Minister of Justice, Mr O'Donoghue,
as inconceivable because the latter did not immediately
accept the Garda Commissioner's report on the riots
in Dublin. 'Stone protested:
does that mean? What is the Minister saying? Is
the Minister for Justice suggesting that he cannot
accept the word of the Garda Commissioner on certain
issues? If that is so then the Minister and the
Government should remove the Commissioner immediately.
words were deliberately chosen to morally blackmail
the government into accepting the privileged position
of the Garda, one which places them beyond accountability.
But since when did the perspective of the rioters
ever come to be shared by the Minister of Justice
in any country? Stone all too easily forgets the ease
with which former Ministers of Justice accepted the
Garda version of the heavy gang - are we to go back
to that? Seemingly so, because neither does Stone
want an ombudsman on the grounds that the majority
of complaints against the force comes from criminals
or subversive types.
attempts to crush open discussion of the matter and
baton public concern off the stage is a tired old
trick performed in front of an increasingly sceptical
audience. And for all his mumbo jumbo he has failed
to eradicate from the public mind a suspicion that
the real criminals intent on subverting human rights
in this instance have been the Gardai. Are we to believe
that Peter Sweetman, of Friends of the Irish Environment,
is a dangerous subversive, because he provided details
of two incidents of police brutality? And is 17 year
old Oisin Breen, a student, a new General
in need of corrective batoning and a six stitch scar
to his head as a reminder just in case he should again
contemplate assuming a revolutionary posture by standing
at the corner of Dame Street?
Feins Daithi Doolan commenting on the zero tolerance
approach which led to the Garda riot, correctly said
there is now Zero rights, Zero equality, Zero
on Garda accountability and in the end, that just
amounts to Zero sense. He called for the Gardai
involved in the Dame Street riot to be sacked. But
why treat them differently from other members of society?
If I were to walk up and down Dame Street with a baseball
bat attacking the public I could expect the clink.
In the interests of public safety lock them up.
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