5 June 2008 Edition

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Justice Minister blocks Ombudsman probe into policing Shell to Sea

TACTICS: Gardaí actions aimed at smashing protests rather than making arrests

TACTICS: Gardaí actions aimed at smashing protests rather than making arrests

NEW Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has refused a Sinn Féin call to allow a request by the Garda Ombudsman to investigate the controversial way in which the Shell to Sea protest in County Mayo is being policed.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD pushed the issue during Dáil question time last week because the Garda superintendent in charge of the operator at Bellinaboy openly admitted in Garda Review magazine that the police strategy was not to arrest protestors because the authorities do not want to “create martyrs” for the environmental cause.
As a result of the Garda strategy, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said, 70 complaints have been made to the Garda Ombudsman because dispersal through heavy-handed action and aggression has taken the place of formal arrest.
“I want to make it clear that Sinn Féin isn’t advocating the arrest of protestors but it’s also clear that the Garda policing approach to Shell to Sea events seeks to avoid publicity and political controversy by avoiding arrests and court appearances. The Garda are using roughhouse tactics in place of following the due process of the law.”
During last week’s Dáil debate, Ó Snodaigh asked Dermot Ahern if he was aware that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is in agreement with Sinn Féin that a review of the Garda approach would help reduce the potential for further abuses and the number of complaints. Will the minister allow the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to do its job more efficiently by undertaking a general investigation into how gardaí police protests and crowd?”
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern replied:
“The simple answer is no. I will not, not in this instance.”

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