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Sunday 25 February 2018

Watchdog clears gardai of assault at student march

Paul Williams

AN investigation by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) into claims of police brutality during a student street protest has recommended three officers face discipline for minor offences.

The watchdog enquiry, which took over two-and-a-half years to complete, could find no evidence of wilful assault against garda riot officers over their use of batons against protesters during the incident on November 3, 2010.

GSOC initially received a total of 40 complaints after violent clashes between protesters and gardai outside the Department of Finance on Merrion Row.

Thousands of students had marched on Government Buildings to protest at an increase in college registration fees.

A number of left wing groups, some aligned to the dissident Republican movement, also infiltrated the march.

Trouble flared when a breakaway group, including members of Eirigi, occupied the Department of Finance offices while student leaders were giving speeches at the main protest.

Flags of the Socialist Workers Party, the Workers Solidarity Movement, Eirigi and the 32 County Solidarity Movement were carried by the group.

During a standoff, objects were thrown at gardai by protesters. A riot squad was deployed to clear the building and keep the angry crowd back.

A number of innocent students who got caught up in the melee were struck by batons, with one man later receiving seven stitches to a facial wound. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) disassociated themselves from the fringe protest.

Of the original 40 complaints made against individual gardai, varying from excessive use of force to abuse of authority, 24 were deemed "admissible" for investigation. Of those, 21 were officially closed down or discontinued, mostly due to a lack of evidence to corroborate the initial complaints.

It has emerged that GSOC has sent files to Commissioner Martin Callinan recommending that three officers face disciplinary action for "abuse of authority", which is considered a minor offence.


A garda spokesman said that the commissioner has appointed a senior officer to examine the GSOC files before deciding if he will take disciplinary action.

Last week, the watchdog expressed "regrets" that its investigation had taken over two and a half years but said it would be commenting on this "and other issues" in the coming weeks.

Comments of that nature tend to suggest that GSOC is preparing to again publicly express its dissatisfaction at the working relationship with the gardai.

Irish Independent

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