Sunday 10 December 2017

Gardaí criticised for hampering photographers

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Independent News and Media (INM) is to lodge an official complaint with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan after gardaí stopped journalists from photographing republican figure Thomas 'Slab' Murphy leaving a polling station.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also questioned why gardaí did not intervene to stop the "blatant intimidation" of journalists by supporters of the tax cheat.

The INM complaint is being lodged after a photographer and reporter from the Irish Independent were blocked from getting out of a car near the polling station in Hackballscross, Co Louth.

As well as having their car "boxed in" by a vehicle driven by Murphy supporters, a man also held the photographer's car door shut.

The same man also recorded the car registration numbers of journalists from the Irish Independent and the 'Irish Times' and took photos of them on his phone. He said he was "just following orders".

INM Head of News Jane Last said: "We will be lodging a complaint with the Garda Commissioner regarding the treatment of our journalists and the manner in which gardaí prevented them from doing their jobs.

A prison van believed to be holding Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy is escorted from the Special Criminal Court court after his sentencing. Photo: Collins Courts
A prison van believed to be holding Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy is escorted from the Special Criminal Court court after his sentencing. Photo: Collins Courts

"Our journalists were subjected to very obvious intimidation by associates of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy.

"It's worrying for freedom of the press that gardaí told journalists from the Irish Independent and 'Irish Times' that they were not allowed in a public area, demanded to know who they wanted to speak to and then ordered them to leave."

The NUJ's Irish secretary, Séamus Dooley, said that there had been "clear intimidation" and that this should be investigated.

He questioned why gardaí had asked the journalists to leave the area when "they had an absolute right to seek to take photographs of a figure of current public interest".

A female garda ordered two photographers and a reporter to leave, claiming they were interfering with the voting process.

The journalists, who had been located in a school car park adjacent to the polling station, denied any interference with voters but complied with the garda's request.

The journalists were subjected to intimidation by a number of individuals before and after Murphy, the alleged former chief of the Provisional IRA in south Armagh, arrived at the polling station.

In a statement, An Garda Siochána said the presiding officer at the polling station had concerns about people congregating at the entrance to the polling station as this could potentially impede voters

"Gardai at the request of the presiding officer approached members of the media at the entrance and requested them to leave the area which they complied with immediately," the statement said.

"Gardai at the scene received no complaints from the media in relation to intimation or assault and any such complaints if received will be fully investigated."

Irish Independent

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