Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Recent happenings surrounding the Gardai and the Rossport protests no doubt have piqued the interests of many sections of society. Scrutiny of the lack of government leadership or intervention, the abandonment of natural reserves to private interests all deserve further commentary and government action. Not to mention the use of the Gardai as instruments of the state with seemingly no consultation, comment or discussion with the citizens of the state as to how they would like this power exercised.

The latest black mark on the boys in blue has come through an unintended recording of conversation between a number of 'boys in blue' in a squad car discussing the methods for extraction of information from detainees. While the press has danced around trying to describe the use of rape as an 'interview technique', it has been spun as innuendo, jovial comments or just a bit of craic, I'm afraid it belies a much deeper problem.

While the individualist explanation may point to a few bad apples, a Stanford Prison explanation which pins the actions of a group on the exemplars. I prefer to look at this as an example of a group who has become so detached from the reality of their role they no longer consider themselves in terms of their commonality with others. In Rossport the gardai now see themselves as separate from the community and protesters are a threat that must be dealt with through the use of force. It the only upshot of this polarization of groups is a jokes about using rape as a weapon against them then I for one would be amazed, as previous examples of this manner or inter-group conflict does not lead to happy endings without serious intervention. This kind of rhetoric is not part of the banter surrounding arresting women in most circumstances, but these women are not like other women, they are not sisters or daughters or girlfriends, they are not the girls who might be picked out of gutters on Saturday night and taxied home for their own good.These are protesters and that group are not to be tolerated. Let me be clear that this is not 'normal' Garda behaviour, this is specific to the situation these gardai are involved in, and as such must be dealt with there. This talk of rape is not specific to all gardai, it is the product of hostilities and division that has been allowed to fester in this little community, in the Taoiseach’s back yard. The gardai are no longer a part of that community but a force, which on this evidence seems to be separate from and opposed to those who they police with. With those divisions of power come struggles for control and what could be more controlling than using rape as a weapon, joking or not, it belies a deeper need for power.

While there is considerable footage of aggression and force being exercised on both sides of the ongoing Rossport protests the reparation of these two communities must begin in earnest. There must be immediate action not to punish a few bad apples but to encourage a different identity for the gardai in Rosport. I grew up naively believing that the gardai were there to protect people, but the purpose of the Gardai is to exercise the will of the state, the state is involved in this debacle and it is up to the state to renegotiate what it means to be a Garda in the face of opposition from the populus. Are they simply a private security force for multinationals beholden only onto themselves or are we going to tackle these divisions before they become endemic. Let this piece not lessen the valuable and selfless work done by many members of the Gardai in Ireland everyday. We cannot allow the positive aspects of the identity associated with being a Gardai to be eroded by unguided actions of a few and norms allowed to merge in the face of situations that gardai have not traditionally dealt with must be tackled.

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