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Gardaí acted with impunity at Corrib site, says ex-garda

By: 
Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

A FORMER garda and human rights observer has said Garda handling of the Corrib gas project security had been an “anathema to the spirit of community policing”.

Benny McCabe, a former Garda sergeant, was responding yesterday to comments made by the former head of the Garda Mayo division, retired chief superintendent Tony McNamara.

The retired chief superintendent said in an Irish Times interview earlier this week that he believed the force had handled the Corrib gas situation far better than counterparts in Denmark during the recent climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Mr McNamara also said he believed that lack of adequate dialogue by developers with residents in the early stages of the Corrib gas project had caused a “fundamental breakdown in trust”.

Mr McCabe said that he had worked on developing community relations when he was based in the Garda deputy commissioner’s office more than two decades ago.

He also worked as a detective, before resigning 20 years ago and training as a psychologist.

Mr McCabe has filed a complaint with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) in relation to his alleged treatment by gardaí at Glengad.

“I have worked as a human rights observer with the UN, the EU and the OSCE in Cambodia, the Balkans, South Africa and in many post-conflict situations, but I have never been treated the way I was in Glengad in late June last year,” Mr McCabe said.

He had been assigned by justice and peace organisation Afri to observe events at Glengad between June 27th and 30th last, and had since returned frequently to Erris on behalf of Afri. “From my own observations and from witness statements taken last summer, gardaí have been acting with impunity in north Mayo,” Mr McCabe said. “It is anathema to the spirit of community policing.”

He said he believed this was borne out by GSOC’s statement late last year that 75 per cent of complaints made about policing aspects of the Corrib gas project were admitted for investigation.

The GSOC also confirmed that it had recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of the Garda (since transferred to Dublin) in relation to the handling of a protest at Pollathomas, Co Mayo, in June 2007.

Mr McNamara said he rejected Mr McCabe’s assertions. He said the issue of the GSOC’s recommendation on disciplinary action was still with the Garda Commissioner and had “not been finalised”.

He also said that Mr McCabe had not presented himself as a human rights observer beforehand when he attended a protest at Glengad.

However, Mr McCabe said he had presented himself to Supt Michael Larkin at Belmullet Garda station some hours before. This was on station records, Mr McCabe added.

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