Gardai face 'gravest of consequences' if found guilty
Gardai found guilty of any wrongdoing in the 'rape-tape' controversy face the gravest of consequences, rank-and-file leaders have warned.
But the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which speaks for the force grassroots, insisted "due process" must be allowed in two probes into the incident at the Corrib gas project in Co Mayo.
PJ Stone, the GRA general secretary, also stressed allegations that officers joked about raping protesters were no reflection on the force as a whole.
"This incident should be viewed in isolation; it is to be dealt with in a disciplinary context," he said.
"If the gardai are found guilty of any wrongdoing it carries the gravest of consequences."
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan appointed Superintendent Gearoid Begley, based in Tuam, Co Galway, to investigate claims that officers were inadvertently taped joking about sex attacks on two women demonstrators opposed to the Shell gas scheme.
The conversation was apparently recorded after a video camera seized from the activists was left recording in the back of a patrol car.
It is understood Supt Begley questioned three officers at the centre of the controversy yesterday.
A Garda source said an initial investigation would take days, not weeks, and the outcome of the findings would be made known.
The force watchdog, the Garda Ombudsman, has also taken the unusual step of launching its own inquiry in the public interest.
Mr Stone said officers do not condone any conduct or discussion that attacks women or women's rights.
He added: "You can not take from one incident that the entire Garda Siochana is misogynist.
"It has never been appropriate to make suggestive comments about rape; not in 1922 and not now."
Superintendent Jim Smith, president of the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS), insisted there would be a speedy outcome to the internal inquiry.
The senior officer also stressed the reported remarks were not reflective of the entire force.
"We would not condone these reported remarks and they are not reflective of the mindset of the Garda Siochana," he said.
"We deal with these matters in a very professional manner and with compassion and sensitivity.
"We expect these investigations to be completed sooner rather than later and the outcome will be communicated to all concerned as quickly as possible."
The scandal was raised in the Dail by Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins who challenged the Government over the allegations.
"Would you agree that the sinister remarks by certain gardai about sexual violence against women would be reminiscent of a hostile occupation force against a civilian population?" Mr Higgins asked.
"Have you any words of condemnation for the persistent and heavy-handed repression by certain sections of the garda over years, and by a private security firm paid for by Shell, which has acted like an army of occupation and repressed the local population and their right to protest?"
Mr Higgins also hit out at Justice Minister Alan Shatter for speaking out against protesters of the project.
He urged Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to "tear up the rotten deals", which he claimed gave the state's natural resources away for nothing.
Mr Gilmore said he was shocked by the comments the officers are alleged to have made.
"Rape is a heinous crime and it is not something that should be threatened, trivialised, or laughed at by anybody," the Tanaiste told the Dail.
"I don't know who spoke on that tape and that is something that is being investigated by the Garda Commissioner (Martin Callinan) and by the Garda Ombudsman Commission.
"Neither do I think, given the content of that tape, we should at this point use it to widen the agenda, or widen whatever point of view we may have about the way in which the Corrib gas project is proceeding, or indeed in relation to the licensing arrangements."