UPDATE: 6th May 10.02 am. A well informed reader just comented that “It’s not a libel case if the alleged remarks weren’t published but spoken — it’s a slander case. Still defamation, but a different sort.” So where you read libel i guess that should be slander. Many thanks to HB for this
Not content with being at the center of one shit storm exactly one month ago today, where he was recorded talking about raping one of two women he had just been involved with aggressively arresting, Sgt James Gill (third in line below) finds himself again in the Irish Times today not once but twice as he was unable to attend a libel court case he has initiated against a local fisherman and also the minor fact that he still hasnt been asked about his comments by the group who have said they are investigating it seriously.
The guy is certainly sucking diesel when it comes to media coverage. Though it is very odd that the person who directed the comments about rape has still to be interviewed by the police body investigating the incident. Allegedly Sgt Gill is too ill to assist in the investigation. So four weeks and one good holiday in the sun later and still not a peep from him to those conducting the official inquiry into events surrounding the recording. Its seems that the concerns expressed by many at the time that the alledgedly independent Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is a toothless powerless organisation not worthy of the term ‘ombudsman’ are completely bang on.
So lets state whats blindingly obvious to us all. Sgt Gill can’t proceed with a libel case whilst he is saying he is too ill to speak to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) about his recorded conversation. There are massive credibility issues for both investigations if he is fit for one and not the other.
It would be damaging to take part in one legal process with the aim of financial enrichment whilst avoiding another that should (be seen to but may not) provide some sense of justice and faith in a police force that seems to tolerate ongoing high levels of abuse of power.
Having spent some time in the sun – reflecting one hopes on how fucking brutally grim it is for a bunch of men to sit around chatting and laughing amongst themselves about raping someone – we can now see another side of the people who get their bills paid for by our sweat.
Sgt Gill is bringing a libel case against someone from the local community because of a verbal exchange that alledged to have happened at a demo. Local fisherman and Shell to Sea campaigner Pat O’Donnell is being sued because Sgt Gill claims Pat suggested he to someone else that Gill was involved in a incident local where some diesel was stolen. Pat rejects outright the allegation that he was speaking about Sgt Gill at all. Personally i know who id trust here, and its not the boys in blue given its costing us all €420,000 A MONTH in compensation to members of the public – ourselves- for the actions of “guardians of the peace”. But i digress, and I should not lets facts and observation of a lifetime of political policing in differing contexts create too much cynicism. I mean we must ‘move on’ as they say. So……
Not content with using coercion and big sticks and having carte blanche to knock seven shades of shite out of people with impunity under the guise of “public order”, it now seems that members of An Garda Siochana feel that they need yet more armour to ‘protect’ themselves against communities and people acting together in resisitance to self justifying actions of the gombeen politicians and large corporations – you know the two types of entities tend to cause maximum harm to ordinary folks in their way. Communities armed with nothing more that passion, commitment, a sense of society and future, collective solidarity, intellect, and their bodies.
Choosing the weapon of choice of the rich and powerful, Sgt Gill is using libel to sue for damage of reputation. One wonders if Gill, just a few years away for retirement, see’s such libel as both a bit of a potential cash cow as well as a great way to repress dissent locally. Maybe he misheard Pat and the levels of mutual mistrust are such that it was impossible to come to an agreement of what actually happened.This is symptomatic of the small human to human breakdown that the project has forced upon a community. Or maybe this is simply more malicious activity from a police force that seek to dominate what it cannot defeat, and make a killing passing time. Obviously lots can be lost in generalising, but the actions of the police have a pattern of that make it hard to avoid making general observations. For example Inspector Gannon (more on him later) made it clear a few years ago that police had a strategy, not of abritration, and not even off upholding the law, but simple to make protest ineffective using physical force. “”There were no arrests. That was part of our strategy; we did not want to facilitate anyone down there with a route to martyrdom.” This is from an interview printed in the Garda Review some years back. So instead of upholding the law, the police are acting as political and social interpreters of the struggle on the side of Shell. This is why they are known as “Shells Cops”. This impression if engrained futher but the fact that Sgt Gill’s brother scaffolding firm AGS has worked on Corrib and also that Sgt Gill sits on the Corrib Project Monitoring Committee with Shell. Hardly can be descibed as independent policing
Its also a common perspective that many police see getting a posting to Corrib as a ching ching with the bling bling. For example five Gardaí in Mayo earned more than €325,000 in over-time in a year while policing the Corrib Gas project in Erris. There is certain amount of milking it going on for those that like physical force policing with lashing of overtime.
Now its anyone’s guess why the fuck Sgt Gill actually thinks he has a reputation in the local community that could be damaged in the first place. Certainly whatever imagined standing his reputation was, i’d venture that right now its not so high. You would have to question if its sensible to keep the libel case alive given his recent display of his sense of humour – or as i prefer to call it, his complete absense of humanity to those who oppose the plans of Royal Dutch Shell.
Im not sure about libel law or how it works but perhaps there are differentgrades or perhaps a continuum moving from saintly saints and altrutist individuals that runs along through buckfast drinkers and TV license dodgers all the way sketchy priests, PR companies and ‘crime correspondents’. Maybe the amount of cash you can get for your image being tarnished is directly related to how highly esteemed you think you are.
Im not sure myself, but Mary Harneys €450,000 libel award for Nell Mc Cafferty suggestion that Harney liked a bit too of the sauce kinda throws that theory into disarray – even though she was looking for a cool million. I mean how much of a reputation can any gin-soaked right-wing ex PD – who provided intellectual cover for the greatest wealth robbery trick of all time while – actually have. Obviously the im not referring to Mary Harney herself who clearly is not and has never been a big boozer. Though that said there a bit of feathers off frogs here
I guess the deal really is where you look to and what segment of the population/peers you want your reputation to be measured by. One wonders how highly all the women working in the Irish police force regard Gill and Egan after the recording have been made public. Maybe Sgt Gill is deserving of a breakfast roll. Though it may be the case that this particular member of the police force will not be running all the way to the bank for a ruined reputation. I think hes done a pretty good job himself….
Gill – along with Garda Hugh Egan- has long been at the center of controversial assaults and complaints. Indeed Garda Hugh Egan was already the center of ongoing investigation by the GSOC at the time the recording was made available to the wider public.
However “ongoing investigation” is somewhat of a euphemism when it comes to the politically motivated repression and imtimdation of a community and of a social justice movement which have little choice as interested humans other than respond to the coercive action of both Shell and successive governments. Particularly when its about a police force and state institutions examining themselves. However the GSOC is under tremendous pressure to get something right in its short period of existence.
Its inability to demand the police to saction and discipline the only officer so far in relation to the Corrib project it shows its complete weakness. The Garda Commissioner refused to comply and instead moved Inspector Gannon from area to Pearse St cop shop – he is now regularl at demos in Dublin in a”public order” role. If the GSOC felt this officer should be disciplined for his police work in Mayo, why is he involved in political policing and “public order” in the capital. The picture above shows Gannon at the center of the student demon and occupation of the department of finance. Good reports with footage on the ferocious levels of police violence and completely dangerous tactics used on the day here.
Another high profile disaster in terms of the GSOC legitimacy and its powers of genuine independent investigation was its inquiry into the death in police custody of Terence Wheelock at Store St garda station and the subsequent police intimidation of the family , which was so sustained and severe that the family had to move out of their home of 20 years. Evidence clearly suggests that police assault within the station played a significant role in his death, and the immediate refurbishment of that cell (and no other) before any evidence could be gathered combined to point to cover up. However in essense the GSOC public report says ‘all the cops said the same thing so there is no case to answer’. However the public report is very different that that given to the family, and clearly points to a similar assault on another young male earlier in that year involving the same officer and similar forms of abuse. ( for clarity not any of the officers mentioned in this piece)
“Every thing all right at the back there Father Conor?” Why yes Bishop O Reilly everythings under control – tally ho”
In some senses the member of police in Corrib are pawns in a much wider context. Listening the full way through the audio file that Gill, Egan and other recorded of themselves its clear that many younger, less experienced(less corrupted?) members of the force are being asked to do things they now go beyond the bounds of training and ‘official’ demands. They can be heard clearly, after the senior ranking Gill leaves the car, to be questioning if the higher ranking officers will ‘let them hang’ if they, the junior officers are held to have acted outside either guidelines and the law yet following the demands of policie heirachy in the specific acts of policing protest. And in this they are perfectly correct. Reports from the day the two women were arressted suggest that even though it was senior male officers doing the restraining, they where both openly directing and covertly wispering in to the ears of young female guards. Records of the day show that officially the arresting officers of the day where female, when in fact the entire arrest where directed and physically carried out by senior male officers. It seems clear that the older cops try to stay clear not just of the paper work, but of official processes of sanction should such processes arise. Even though they are directing younger members of the police force, they are keen to keep official space between what they demand lower ranks do and who will take the fall. Senior ranks act in the full knowledge that they,and they alone have the monopoly on violence around this proposed project.
Garda Hugh Egan – Under investigation twice at the same time
As mentioned earlier above Garda Hugh Egan has been under investigation for TWO years by the GSOC with no action taken for ‘allegedly’ assaulting Willie Corduff with a sharp stone that has left scarring clearly visible today. Whilst under ‘investigation’ Egan brought a case against another campaigner. He was charged with assault for trying to stop Hugh Egan beating up on someone caught under a fence.
A video in court showed that ‘assault’ was Nail Harnett putting his hand on Egans arm. Nial got four months in prison. This is a video of the “assault” Hugh Egan is the cop in brown plain clothes with no badge etc.
The action was one that sought to pull down a fence illegal erected on the beach. A campaigner is caught under it at the time and Hugh Egan is trying to drag him out dispite it being obvious this harming the person caught.
Make up your own mind how you would feel about this member of the police joke about raping you!
So these cops DO have reputation, but its a pretty shit one already, even before we all, including local women heard them talking about raping other women living in the community.
Sgt Gill has taken ill since over 70,000 people listened to him and Garda Hugh Egan talk about raping a female prisoner. I intend writing a more substantial piece on the incident and media reportage etc within the next few weeks but this was provoked by Gills libel case in todays IT. Its fair to say that people from all walks of life where disgusted – so much so that habitual misoginsists like Kevin Myers and cop mouthpieces like Paul Williams tied themselves up in knots doing exactly what the police force themselves did, ie talking out of both sides of their mouths at once. Ive spoken to lots of male friends with the specfic question in mind. Is talking about raping women ever a joke? Would you say that? All have said its not anything they would say. And ive worked in what i thought was a pretty sexist women oppressing culture of building site. Ive gotten into rows about sexism on site (after years of complicit silence i have to say) but never once in almost 20 years have i heard grown men talk or laugh about rape generally, nevermind actually about raping someone themselves. This is not a product of dark humour, its the product of the deliberate dehumanising of political and social justice activists, of fellow humans regardless of wether its conscious or not.
I can beat you with impunity in fromnt of TV cameras and the media will protect me, I can put your body in my car and take you to a police station even though I know we wont be charging you, I can drive slowly past your house on a lonely contry lane to intimidate you and your family, I can talk about how “It’s my c**k and your f***ing wife will know all about it. I hope you’re recording all that now, John.” as was revealed at the press conference a few weeks ago.
To put this in some context. The GSOC threatened one of the women the cops where referring to with legal action for not acting quickly enough with their investigation. WTF sort of investigation threatens women with legal action while the men who talked about rape get to head off to the sun while the reflect on rape chatter and suing locals for damage of reputation.
This is a fair reflection of a society that seems all too capable of making those who have to deal with the abuse of power culpable whilst those who abuse office are never to blame and are themselves are victims of an oppresive system. So in that world Mary Harney is not an alcoholic and deserves €450,000, Bertie won it on the horses and is a socialist and it was God’s fault the cops and political classes kept their mouths shut for generations and did sweet fuck all as kids got systemically raped and women systemically incarerated over decades. Thanks guys, nice legacy you left us with.
Some of us refuse to be complicit or silenced anymore
Garda Hugh Egan is the center of the 2 year investigation brutal assault of local farmer Willie Corduff. Willie was awarded the the Goldman Prize environmental prize in April 2007 , the most celebrated global prize for people involved in struggles to protect and promote sensible approached to question of ecology and society.
Exactly two years later, on 22nd April 2009 Willie was assaulted and ended up in hospital whilst taking part in a protest. Willie was under a lorry and has since identified Hugh Egan as a police officer who grinded a sharp stone into his lower leg and repeated slashed and gouged his leg, in an futile attempt to force Willie out from under the truck, which was blockade work. Later events took a more insidious turn. For some reason the police -after spending hours and several seperates assaults – abandoned the scene and simply disappeared, pretty odd behaviour in the middle of a blockade. Very soon afterward, several men in black clothes and balaclavas arrived and began to beat the shit out of Willie. Its is suspected that these mens where working for IRMS, the controversial private security force hired by Shell – and with links to far right groups across europe. Its also suspected that police collusion allowed this attack to take place, given the odd withdrawal of police from an ongoing bloackade. Off the record Willie Corduff has been told by the GSOC that “their hands are tied”. Meanwhile the investigation against Hugh Egan for his part in the assault probably will be delayed even further as his part in the rape conversation is examined. No one really thinks that justice comes before damage limitation.
The incident itself was raised by former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, who said the incident was part of a culture of violence that “raised doubts about the ability and commitment of the Government” to “find a solution that best serves the interests of the people”.
It gets worse. When police came to his house, an isolated farm, to investgate his complaint against Garda Hugh Egan it was two plain clothes detectives. They arrived to the door,and as Willie answered it, he say that a Hugh Egan was in the backseat of the car. When Egan saw he was spotted he got out of the car and began to protest his innocence directly to Willie in the presence of two plain clothes detectives charged with gathering evidence and statements . This is want passes for processes of justice in Rossport.
The police force as ever didnt mince their words themselves with regards Willie beating. Supt. Garda Michael Larkin of Belmullet, Co Mayo said Willie was taken to hospital because he felt “unwell”.
You couldnt make it up. But one only has to refer to the press release issued by the garda press office as they tried to squash the rape tape story one month ago today. The statement said they where investigating alleged derogatory remarks against women. Thats shows a pretty incisive understanding of power, rape and violence there boys in blue. The best comment ive seen on this is here
I guess we willhave to wait and see what the GSOC will do. However its would be pretty foolish to hold our breath on this one. Power nevers cedes justice, and its only in the struggle for it that we see what kind of society we actually are.