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May Day riot costs State €1m in fees and claims

A total of €288,700 has been paid out in compensation to people injured by gardai during the disturbances that arose from the 2002 'Reclaim the Streets' protest in Dublin on May Day, 2002, it has emerged.

The addition of legal fees to this amount is understood to have brought the total payment by the State to around €1m.

Only one case was contested, by a 39-year-old Dublin woman. Her case went to hearing in 2004 and after 10 days it was settled in her favour after a witness brought forward by gardai to suggest the plaintiff had acted violently towards him was shown to have a lengthy record of assault, intimidation and other offences.

The last case for compensation, from a school teacher who was hit on the face by a baton causing a large gash above and below his mouth, was settled earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

Despite the amount of personal injury compensation paid out by the State, it is understood no internal disciplinary action against gardai has taken place. During the disturbances, much of which was filmed by protesters and posted on the internet, several gardai wielding batons were shown to have removed their identity numbers.

A request to the Garda Press Office as to what internal disciplinary proceedings were instituted and what were the results elicited no response last week.

Following the events in Dublin, a special inquiry was set up by the then Garda Complaints Board headed up by Seamus McKenna, who was subsequently replaced by solicitor Gordon Holmes.

Inquiries into complaints made by 40 people were carried out by retired Garda Assistant Commissioner Jim McHugh. They led to seven gardai facing assault and other charges. Only one case came to court -- that of Garda Donal Corcoran. He was acquitted in November 2004 of assaulting three students causing them harm. No internal disciplinary action was taken.

In July 2006, the single compensation case contested by the State was settled in favour of the plaintiff, Annette Ryan, of Dublin. She claimed to have been assaulted by a garda, handcuffed, thrown into the back of a garda van and taken to Pearse Street Station where she was strip-searched.

After the settlement, Ms Ryan said: "I was standing on Burgh Quay when a female garda came from behind me and grabbed the beer can I was holding. I pulled it back and the garda lifted me off my feet and threw me on the ground. Then he knelt on my back. My face was pushed into the ground, I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a garda van.

"I was taken to Pearse Street Station where two female guards told me to take my clothes off. One of them was very aggressive. After I was strip-searched I was put in a cell for an hour and then charged with breaching the peace and disorderly behaviour.''

Ms Ryan had to appear on five occasions at Dublin District Court until charges against her were struck out in the summer of 2003.

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During her compensation hearing, the State called a taxi driver who claimed he had been bitten by Ms Ryan. However, she stated that she had bitten the man after he prevented her from getting out of his taxi and had broken her finger. It then emerged the man had 22 previous convictions for assault.

The State settled the case with a €25,000 payment to Ms Ryan and payment of her full legal costs for the 10-day High Court hearing.

Gardai who were involved in policing the protest that day said there had been inadequate management of the policing response.

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