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Rape-joke gardai are bungling fools ... but nothing worse

WAY back in the Seventies there was some extreme supposed feminist slogan going round to the effect that all men were potential rapists. And there were these t-shirts or badges that said: "Men are everywhere, not just in dark alleys."

And my stepdad, Maurice Craig, would take the piss out of it by going round singing: "Men are everywhere and not just in dark alleys, they're up on top of the hills and way down in the valleys."

Comedian Dara O Briain recently wrote an article about how so many young comedians nowadays who want to appear edgy are making rape jokes -- and it wasn't cool. Regarding the rape comments made by the gardai in Mayo, I need to firstly make it clear that I am a huge supporter of the Shell to Sea campaign in Corrib. And I am not a great fan of garda policing of the protests in Mayo.

So when I first read about the comments by members of An Garda Siochana about raping a protester, I was both infuriated and horrified. I just need you to know my feelings and beliefs here because when I come out and say I actually have started to pity the gardai who made the rape statements last week you might actually think: "Has the girl lost her mind?"

I began to read the whole story and the transcript, and began to see that the comments weren't made directly and were made in private as part of a very bad-taste joke. And I looked at the guys making these comments as more bungling oafs than any real threat to the women they had arrested and then released without charge.

I doubt these men had any intent of rape, or at any time being a threat to any woman. But their jokes show more a lack of IQ and seriously bruised male ego than anything. These women had got in their way and one had caused a bit of hassle by climbing up on a tractor. The threats of deportation seemed to be made with equal disdain and bruised ego and in the same vein as the rape comments. Which shows they were acting like little boys in a school playground who stick worms down girls' jumpers and pull their pigtails to make them scream when they feel threatened by the girl being better at football or winning one over on the boys.

I'm sure these kinds of silly rape jokes -- amongst all sorts of other bad taste jokes -- do go on in private, in pubs, and God knows where. They are repugnant to most women, but harmless in themselves. They would more signify the already existing attitude of sexism, or fear of women in general. It's a last resort jibe. Psychologically, rape has always been used as a weapon of war. The Turks when invading the Balkans would sodomise their dead enemies on the battlefield and we don't have to be reminded of the horrors that still go on today in the Congo, Angola, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia, never mind the last war in the former Yugoslavia. I worked as an aid worker there and saw first-hand the horrors of the rape camps. Rape as threat to an enemy in war is a very effective, harrowing, and deliberate tactic. Did these gardai think themselves to be at all-out war with the protesters or were they pissed off, stupid men trying to save face by making bad taste jokes during that process? What strikes me as more worrying is that the gardai who swear an oath to protect the people of Ireland seem to view these protesters as sub-human or "crusties". But now, nearly a week after the event was reported, I actually am feeling sorry for them. When you listen to the transcript in full the main preoccupation of the gardai seems to be about trying to do what they saw as their job without actually harming the women, while getting one of them off the tractor -- not that I agree with that part of their job. I would willingly climb that tractor myself to get in their way. But God, I'm sure these poor bungling fools have never regretted anything more than making a stupid, loose-tongued, bad-taste joke in what they thought was the privacy of their garda car.

Even if they believe the bigger sin was being caught, and not the comment, they are still bungling fools and nothing more.

Sunday Independent