Crude attempt by Sunday Independent to downplay Garda ‘rape tape’ conversation
Sunday Independent journalist Jim Cusack has a consistent track record of writing highly dubious stories, based solely on anonymous Garda sources. In the June 19th edition of the newspaper, he makes a lame but insidious attempt to mitigate the behaviour of the Gardaí in Co Mayo who recorded themselves talking about raping women in their custody last March. He claims to have been shown new video footage, supposedly of the incident on March 31st, and this forms the basis of his article. Unfortunately for him, this footage, if it exists at all, is clearly not a recording of the incident in question.
An Indymedia article ( http://www.indymedia.ie/article/99813 ) published on May 24th revealed how Gardaí tried to use journalists to smear the women at the centre of the rape comments controversy. That article reported how Shell to Sea campaigners revealed that rumours were circulated by Gardaí to crime correspondents within days of the “rape tape” story breaking in early April. These “rumours” were that the circumstances of the arrest were somehow different to those described by the two women. Shell to Sea was able to explain to the journalists who contacted it that the rumours were entirely false. The journalists did not run with the story.
Some 10 weeks later, these false rumours have appeared in an article by Jim Cusack in the Sunday Independent (June 19th, 2011). Cusack’s article claims that the two women who were arrested on March 31st accused the Gardaí of rape during their arrest and that this was the “context” in which the subsequent rape conversation took place among Gardaí in the squad car. Bizarrely, the implication seems to be that if this “context” were true – if one of the women really had mentioned the word “rape” during the arrest – that would somehow make it more acceptable that a Garda sergeant and his colleagues would joke about raping women who were in their custody.
In his article, Cusack claims to have seen video footage of the arrests and claims that a woman’s voice can be heard off camera saying “rape”. He describes in detail the removal of two women by Gardaí from the top of a tractor. Unfortunately for Cusack, the incident he describes in the video recording he claims to have seen differs wildly from the incident leading to the arrests on March 31st.
Although he has not made the footage public, his detailed description of it has allowed the Shell to Sea campaign to issue a list of the major discrepancies between his description and the incident on March 31st. The campaign has published on its website a letter of complaint it has sent to the editor of the Sunday Independent, outlining some of the numerous inaccuracies in Cusack’s article. The letter condemns the article as “a distorted report on a very serious case which is of significant public interest”; it points out that no attempt was made to contact the campaign to verify the claims made in the article; and it accuses the newspaper of showing “extraordinary disrespect for the women involved” and of seeking “to minimise the behaviour of the Gardaí involved”.
Cusack’s crude intervention into the controversy appears timed to soften the public mood in advance of the publication of the report of an inquiry into the Garda rape conversation. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s report, which is due in the coming weeks, is considered unlikely to recommend any serious disciplining of the Gardaí involved.
At this stage, it is worth summarising the sequence of events arising from the rape comments recording, as outlined above and in the earlier Indymedia article ( http://www.indymedia.ie/article/99813 ):
- On March 31st, 2011, several Gardaí at the Corrib Gas protests accidentally recorded themselves talking about raping women who were in their custody. The recording was made on a camera confiscated from the women in question. They then returned the camera to one of the women.
- When the recording was made public, it provoked condemnation of the Garda behaviour from advocacy groups, politicians and the general public.
- The Garda authorities responded by setting up inquiries and publicly reassuring victims of sexual assault that Gardaí would deal with their cases compassionately and sensitively.
- However, behind the scenes, unnamed Gardaí moved swiftly to exact revenge on the women who made the recording public and to deflect attention from the behaviour of these Gardaí. They did this firstly by leaking the women’s personal details to selected crime correspondents and also by trying to generate rumours about the circumstances of the arrest.
- In April, reporters who contacted Shell to Sea about these rumours were assured that the rumours were entirely false and they did not report them.
- We know now that the rumours in question were that: “the women mentioned rape before the Gardaí did”.
- In the June 19th edition of the Sunday Independent, Jim Cusack, who has a history of making unsubstantiated claims that seek to damage the Shell to Sea campaign, reported these rumours and claimed to have seen video footage that backed them up. His analysis was that this provided a “context” that somehow mitigated the infamous rape conversation in the squad car.
- Shell to Sea has written to the editor of the Sunday Independent, outlining the highly misleading nature of Cusack’s article and seeking a retraction and apology. This letter is on the Shell to Sea website.
Link to letter from Shell to Sea campaign to Sunday Independent:
Jim Cusack’s article in the Sunday Independent, June 19th, 2011:
Indymedia article of May 24th: