Putting The Gardai Under The Spotlight - The Royal Hotel meeting


Over 200 people packed into the Royal Dublin Hotel on Dublin’s O’Connell Street in early December for a public meeting on the topic ‘Democracy and Policing: How accountable are the gardaí to the Irish people?’ The meeting was addressed by

• Larry Wheelock whose brother Terence died in suspicious circumstances in Store Street Garda Station in Dublin over two years ago (see ‘Something Rotten in Store Street’ in WS99)

• John Monaghan from Rossport in Mayo whose community has been under constant garda siege as a result of their resistance to Shell’s attempts to force an unsafe pipeline and refinery on them (a story which has been well documented in Workers Solidarity

• John Maloney from Crumlin, Dublin whose son John died in suspicious circumstances after his arrest by Gardaí from Rathfarnham Garda Station in Dublin (for details see www.indymedia.ie/article/75337)

• A statement was also read on behalf of the Rossiter family from Clonmel, Co. Tipperary whose 14-year-old son Brian died after being found unconscious in a Garda cell.The meeting heard speaker after speaker from the floor recount their stories of garda brutality and unaccountability. In giving people the forum in which to begin to address these questions the meeting served a very useful purpose.

As anarchists, we know that it will always be impossible under capitalism to hold the gardaí accountable in any meaningful way. The police force in any state is there to protect the status quo and will do whatever is necessary to do so. In situations such as that in Rossport, the cops will always be there to defend the multinational company rather than to uphold the rights of ordinary people.

Anybody who has ever attended a picket or a protest will probably have had the experience of having their name and/or their photograph taken – even though there’s supposed to be a right to peaceful protest. However, it is important that meetings such as this one are held and it’s important that communities and individuals are empowered to stand up to the abuses of power which occur on a daily basis.

It is for the same reason that the demands of campaigns such as those of the Wheelock, Rossiter and Maloney families for independent inquiries into the killings of their loved ones are important for all of us. If the state can be forced to concede an inquiry in any of these cases and if the individual gardaí responsible can be held even partly to account, it will mean that all of us will feel more able to confront such abuses.

Just as it is impossible to have ‘accountable gardaí’ in any meaningful way without a complete change in the power relationships in society, neither is it possible for the state to ever be truly neutral or ‘independent’. Any inquiry which the state is forced to concede in these cases will of course be limited and the different organs of the state – politicians, gardaí and judiciary – will always cover up for each other. But the demand for an inquiry into each of these deaths – and all un- explained deaths in garda custody - is one which it is important that all of us should not alone support but actively campaign for. Putting them under the spotlight of publicity makes them think twice about their behavior.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 101 published Jan/Feb 2008

Draft PDF of WS101 - articles will differ from proofread version