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'Rape' claims were hurled at gardai by protesters

Another video tape has emerged relating to the so-called Mayo garda "rape tape" which suggests gardai who were removing two women protesters from a tractor -- in the presence of female officers -- were being accused of rape.

The video tape is part of evidence being examined by the Garda Ombudsman regarding the 'rape tape' controversy, and it appears to provide a context in which it would appear the gardai in the squad car were joking about "rape" because they had been repeatedly accused of rape as they were handling the women protesters.

An unidentified woman protester can be heard uttering the word as gardai lifted two women down from a tractor on a video tape, seen by the Sunday Independent.

A copy of the video tape is now with the Garda Ombudsman. Four gardai have been questioned but not a fifth, who has been on sick leave. The Ombudsman said it has also questioned women protesters. Gardai at the scene said they were repeatedly accused of "rape" while handling the women.

On the video clip four male gardai can be seen trying to move the two women from the top of the tractor cab. Two female gardai are in close attendance.

As one of the women is helped on to the bonnet and then down into the arms of one of the female officers one of the male gardai can be heard saying "I am trying to get you down", while another woman is shouting in the background. A female voice can then be heard shouting "outrageous" and then, in a lower tone and from another female voice, the word "rape" can be heard.

Protesters had released part of a recording from a camcorder that had been seized by gardai and was still running when the 'rape' conversation took place inside the squad car. This received massive media coverage.

However, the background to the remarks and context in which the gardai were jokingly referring to rape was not made public.

According to garda sources at least one unidentified woman protester used the word repeatedly as she was being moved from the site.

The gardai were criticised by, among others, the National Women's Council, which said women would be left wondering if their distress "will be a source of amusement" for gardai.

But garda sources said that all the gardai involved are highly regarded officers, though the remarks are clearly embarrassing and stupid. Gardai at the protests have come under pressure and routinely face allegations from assault to false imprisonment.

Dozens of complaints have gone to the Garda Ombudsman.

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The gardai under investigation were travelling by car from the protest site to Belmullet station with the camcorder running without their knowledge. It was returned to the two women who had been arrested and taken to the station in another car accompanied by female gardai after they were released without charge.

On the tape one of the gardai can be heard saying: "Give me your name and address or I'll rape you."

Amid laughter, another garda repeated: "Hold it there. Give me your name and address there . . . I'll rape you."

After more laughter, another says: "I'll definitely rape you."

Protesters later told reporters that one of the women in the latest clip had bruises but in the video seen by this paper gardai appear to be acting very carefully. One protester descended with gardai on either side holding her arms but another continued to shout and struggle while lying on her back on top of the cab of the Shell tractor with two other gardai restraining her, holding her wrists and legs.

After the emergence of the "rape tape" an unnamed protester told a local newspaper: "When on a protest they are treating you really roughly, you have an instinctive sense of danger, but you can't put words on it.

"But then to hear them saying that word 'rape' so many times and then all the laughter. Every woman knows someone who has been a victim of sexual violence. These are the men that all our lives we are told are there to protect us and here they are talking about raping us."

Meanwhile, gardai are now investigating the actual rape of a 22-year-old English woman, now living in Ireland, at a mini-festival run by protesters last Sunday week.

The woman was found naked and in a very distressed state behind a row of portaloos by other people at the Party Against the Pipe festival at Aughoose on the bank holiday weekend.

It is understood the woman was taken to hospital and reported the rape in Galway on the bank holiday Monday. Gardai are investigating the matter and seeking a man who had been involved in the protests and who may have left the country. Gardai are appealing for others now to come forward.

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