HUNDREDS of angry protesters picketed outside the Dail yesterday demanding an independent inquiry into the so-called "rape tape" affair.
About 200 demonstrators took part in the peaceful lunchtime protest organised by the Irish Feminist Network to denounce the actions of gardai who allegedly joked about raping and deporting two young female Corrib gas protesters.
Men, women, members of the feminist, environment and labour movements, as well as ordinary citizens, all expressed their anger and outrage with banners and placards proclaiming "rape is not a joke".
Ailbhe Smyth, of the Feminist Open Forum, said the five gardai at the centre of the so-called "rape tape" allegations should be suspended, pending an investigation.
They remain on duty in administrative roles at Castlebar garda station in Co Mayo, but have been banned from any dealings with the public.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan issued an apology on behalf of An Garda Siochana on Thursday night following an initial report on the incident by Supt Gearoid Begley from Tuam, Co Galway.
The Begley report found "the conversation did take place between members of An Garda Siochana and the words reported were used".
An internal probe has also been ordered into the allegations, as well as an inquiry by the Garda Ombudsman Commission.
But Ms Smyth said they don't go far enough. "The police investigating the police, we feel that's not acceptable," she said.
"There have been several reports of intimidation and sexual intimidation over the years and nothing has been done about these. So it is time now to clean this up and to ensure that there is appropriate training for all gardai throughout the ranks and that there are appropriate sanctions for gardai who fail to behave in a way that is even vaguely acceptable to the citizens of this country."
Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour) who also attended the protest, said there had been ongoing reports of "low level harassment of individuals" during public order policing for years.
"What adds a really unpleasant and sinister dimension to this is the nature of the comments about rape, which clearly throw up serious issues about gardai and their policing of sexual assaults and domestic violence and rapes.
"As somebody who has done a great deal of research as an academic and a politician on the issue of rape, I'm terribly disappointed," said Ms Bacik, who is also a barrister and criminology professor at Trinity College.
"I think it's a sign there's been a setback in the conduct of the gardai as regards sexual offence policing. It unfortunately sends out all the wrong signals to victims and their families."