Dubious claims reported by certain crime correspondents have long played a role in undermining the campaign against Shell’s inland refinery in Mayo. So when a video recording of Gardaí at the Corrib protests in Co Mayo talking about raping a woman in their custody was released last April, a backlash against the women who released it was probably inevitable.
When the tape went public, the Garda authorities were contrite. Inquiries were launched. The Garda commissioner said Gardaí should treat the issue of sexual assault with compassion and sensitivity. But it appears that not all Gardaí were on message.
An article on Indymedia Ireland on May 24th revealed how, within hours of the story going public, gardaí were “briefing against” the two women who released the tape. They released the women’s personal details to journalists and tried – unsuccessfully – to spread a rumour about the women. Clearly, nothing will deter certain gardaí from smearing campaigners. However, in this case, crime correspondents would not play their part, presumably because of the sense of public outrage over the affair.
Weeks later, the Sunday Independent’s crime correspondent, Jim Cusack, wrote a bizarre story for the June 19th edition. Cusack finally revealed the “rumour” in question and claimed to have seen a video tape that proved it. In the event, the rumour was very lame: it was that the women had mentioned the word “rape” first. Or as the Sunday Independent headline put it, the word was “hurled at gardaí by protesters”. Evidently, we were supposed to think it would be acceptable for a Garda sergeant to joke about raping a woman in his custody – if the woman had mentioned the word “rape” during the arrest.
Not only was it a very lame revelation: it appears to be entirely untrue. The women have strenuously denied it. The Shell to Sea campaign has sent a letter to the newspaper, pointing out that the incident in the footage described by Cusack is dramatically different from the incident preceding the arrest on the day of the ‘rape tape’. The letter demands an apology be published in the newspaper.
Another Indymedia article, ‘Jim Cusack does it again: the case of the wrong video tape’ documents all this. It appears that Cusack has been given footage of an entirely different incident and either believes – or is pretending to believe – that it is the incident on the day of the “rape tape”. A comment on the Indymedia article links to a video clip on YouTube that appears to be the footage Cusack is referring to. This is where things become more ridiculous. It is difficult to make out a single word on the “new” tape. The person who posted in on YouTube – one day after Cusack’s article in the Sunday Independent – has helpfully added speech bubbles, saying “Rape”.