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Justice Minister rules out review of Garda operation in Bellanaboy – Ó Snodaigh

28 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD today asked the new Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to support a request from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to review the Garda approach to policing protests including the operation at the site of the proposed Shell Gas pipeline in Bellanaboy County Mayo in light of a high number of complaints about Garda abuse. Minister Ahern refused the request.

Speaking in the Dáil today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin recognises the need for a review to be conducted by an external body with human rights expertise into the current approach to the policing of demonstrations and the need for a new human rights compliant approach to be developed.

"The approach to policing at Bellanaboy was summed up by the Superintendent in charge there Joe Gannon. In an interview published by Garda Review magazine he said 'There were no arrests. That was part of our Strategy; we did not want to facilitate anyone down there with a route to martyrdom. That has been our policy ever since'. That policy has resulted in 70 complaints to the Garda Ombudsman because the Garda approach substituted lawful arrests with their own form of brute enforcement. This included brutal and cowardly assaults on protesters by Gardaí.

"The Garda Ombudsman Commission is in agreement with Sinn Féin that a review of the Garda approach would help to reduce future abuses and complaints. But under the deeply flawed legislation they need the Minister's permission to undertake that review. This permission was refused by the previous Justice Minister Brian Lenihan. Will the new Minister allow the Ombudsman Commission to do its job more efficiently by undertaking a general investigation into the Garda approach to the policing of protests and crowd control etc?" ENDS

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