Rossport rape-tape scandal exposes Gardai

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD, when condemning the reprehensible nature of the distressingly misogynistic remarks caught on tape of Gardai speaking about female protesters against Shell in Mayo, said the comments were reminiscent of those of a foreign, oppressive occupying force.

The dehumanising of these female protesters by Gardai is indeed that. And why should we be surprised, given the unashamed role that the state has played in facilitating the major corporation of Shell to plunder resources off the west coast of Ireland, for profit. €14 million has been spent on policing – read harassing – the courageous protests against the profit-hungry, environment-destroying and resources-pillaging Shell Oil.

We have to look no further than Mayo to see how the police force under capitalism is used to maintain the status quo and protect the rule of profit. There have been over 100 complaints to the Garda Ombudsman about policing in this Shell-occupied county. Yet, Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte, believes that the comments caught on tape were not typical of the Gardai!

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter commented, ‘I am… disappointed…at the attempts by some involved in the Corrib dispute to exploit this incident with the aim of undermining trust in the Garda Siochana and of compromising the policing of the dispute.’ Presumably Minister Shatter also believes that anti-war activists were using Abu-Ghraib to tarnish the reputation of the Iraq occupation.

And what were these comments? Despicably and disgracefully they centred around Garda comments about raping the women. We live in a world in which one in three women live in daily fear of being abused, a victim of violence or raped. Any and all trivialisation of rape that take place in society, culture, in the workplace etc. must be actively opposed and challenged by the labour movement.

The drive for profit at the heart of capitalism has led to a burgeoning of to the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies in culture. Normalisation of this, like the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs, may seem harmless, but studies show that where such clubs open up, attacks on women in the locality increase. The most extreme form of violence committed most often against women, is that of rape. It’s a heinous act, about attempting to express and exert total power over another human being.

How incredibly offensive and disturbing that members of the police force, that survivors of rape are supposed to report the crime to, are making such comments. According to statistics from the Rape Crisis Centre, in  2009 only 26% of all rape survivors who availed of its services reported the crime to the police. No wonder, given the experiences of rape victims who attempt to get justice in this way. Conviction rates for rape are low, and victims are often subjected to traumatic questioning in court.

The Gardai recorded on the tapes should be immediately removed from their positions, not simply relegated to desk jobs as has occurred. There needs to be a genuinely independent and democratic investigation involving residents, community and trade union organisations into the actions and behaviour of the Gardai in the policing of protests in Rossport.

Women who survive violence and rape and working class people in general all deserve police services that are genuinely democratic, completely organised by, controlled by, checked by and utterly accountable to local communities. As opposed to the status quo whereby a totally unaccountable and untouchable police force answer to the call of big business and the capitalist governments who support the latter, as seen in the case of Rossport, as well as that of the forcible break-up of the Thomas Cook workers’ occupation of mainly women workers in 2009.