INVESTIGATORS moved swiftly last night to quiz three gardai at the centre of the "rape" tape controversy.
Two separate probes are now under way amid allegations that a sergeant and two colleagues laughed about sex attacks on two women.
Nobody has been suspended as the investigators begin the formal process of asking the gardai to explain comments caught on tape, and to put them in context.
The Garda Ombudsman Commission yesterday took the unusual step of launching a public interest inquiry before receiving a complaint.
Both the commission and the gardai themselves are now probing the recorded conversation, which apparently took place in a patrol car following the arrest of two young women near the controversial Corrib gas pipeline route in Mayo.
But amid growing anger yesterday, there was a demand that Justice Minister Alan Shatter intervene and initiate a third, separate, investigation.
A 37-minute clip of the conversation had last night been viewed more than 11,000 times online.
It was inadvertently taped, after a video camera seized from the activists was left recording in the back of a patrol car.
Voices can be heard on the tape joking about threatening to deport and rape one of the women.
Amnesty International, Rape Crisis Network Ireland and politicians condemned the comments last night.
Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O'Gorman said that if the recordings were authenticated, the gardai must recognise their seriousness.
Garda Superintendent Gearoid Begley from Tuam moved quickly to interview the three gardai at the centre of the storm yesterday.
Supt Begley has been charged with establishing the facts of the case and will report directly to the Garda Commissioner. The commissioner will then decide if there are grounds for criminal or disciplinary action.
The two women who were arrested last week are expected to make a formal complaint tomorrow.
One said that she and her friend were still traumatised by what they had heard on the tape.
"We were just terrified, not just as campaigners, but for others in the area ... it is an incredibly serious and dangerous situation for people living in that area," the woman said.
"Just hearing them say, 'give me your name and address and I'll rape you ... I'll definitely rape you'. We were both horrified."
Rape Crisis Network Ireland described the contents of the recording as "very serious" and insisted that the public and victims of rape and sexual violence must be able to trust the gardai.
The One in Four organisation said it was "astonished and disappointed" at the tape.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan moved to quell the growing concern from rape crisis groups last night.
He issued a statement emphasising the importance of combining professionalism with sensitivity and compassion in garda investigations of sexual crimes.
The two women have declined to be identified.
Both are young environmental activists in their 20s and living in Dublin. One is a UCD graduate while the other is a student in NUI Maynooth.
They had travelled to north Mayo last week where they joined up with the Rossport Solidarity Camp.
Meanwhile, it emerged the Garda Ombudsman Commission had previously been asked to investigate complaints of a sexual derogatory nature against gardai arising from Corrib Gas project protests.
Spokesman for community group Pobal Chill Chomain told the Irish Independent that he had made a formal complaint to the commission when it was established in May, 2007.
The complaint centred on sexually abusive remarks that John Monaghan claims were made about his wife by a garda during a protest in which he participated in May 2006.
"I was later informed that it was out of time and could not be investigated," Mr Monaghan said.
The commission does not comment on individual cases.