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Social media abuse an 'ongoing problem' for gardaí as probe launched into 'online threats'

The force also said it is putting supports in place to protect the garda’s safety.

Gardaí at the Frederick Street eviction on Tuesday.
Gardaí at the Frederick Street eviction on Tuesday.

Updated Sep 16th 2018, 5:59 PM

GARDAÍ HAVE SAID that supports have been put in place to protect the welfare of a Dublin garda following “online threats”.

In a statement released by An Garda Síochána today, the force said it was investigating the threats made against the garda member.

“Appropriate supports have been put in place by garda management to protect the welfare and safety of the garda member,” the statement reads. 

Garda groups have come out to condemn the threats made against the member, including the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), which said that online threats are an “ongoing problem” for its members.

New Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has also come out to criticise the threats made against the garda, stating:

Threats and intimidation against garda members who are only doing their job to keep people safe and uphold lawful order are completely unacceptable. I utterly condemn it. 

The removal of housing activists from a property on Dublin’s North Frederick Street on Tuesday saw gardaí with their faces covered accompanying contractors hired by a landlord.

In the subsequent days there was criticism of the decision by the gardaí involved to wear fire-retardant balaclavas during the operation.

One Facebook page on Friday claimed to have used facial recognition software to identify one of the gardaí involved. In the comments under the post supposedly identifying him, several people used threatening and abusive language.

In a statement this afternoon, Garda Representative Association (GRA) communications director John O’Keefe condemned the threats made against the gardaí.

“They have led to vile social media abuse and threats where our members, and often their families are intentionally identified,” he said. 

“The GRA Membership go to work everyday as public servants, equipped with little more than an extendible baton and pepper spray to defend themselves and the public.”

In a statement, the AGSI said: “We welcome comments today from Commissioner Harris and Ministers Flanagan and Murphy who rightly point out that members of the force are simply doing their job.

A wider issue of protecting members’ good names and reputation online is something we would like to see the Garda organisation tackle in conjunction with the social networks.

In response to criticism of gardaí covering their faces, Commissioner Harris said on Thursday that “the form of dress used at the event was not correct”.

Despite this, the Garda Representative Association argued that the headgear worn during the incident protects gardaí and does not hide their identity because their registration numbers were visible.

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Speaking today, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that the organisations involved in the protests should condemn the threats being made against the garda.

“I’m disgusted by it, it is utterly wrong. We talked about this earlier in the week when the protests were happening, about the safety of the gardaí, and that has to be paramount as they go about protecting the public,” Murphy said.

“And I do hope that anyone who’s involved in these protests, political organisations or protesting organisations, while of course they have a right to protest, that they distance themselves from this immediately because it’s completely wrong.”

In a statement this afternoon, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “This serves to highlight the challenges facing gardaí in upholding the law on our behalf and the importance of all right-thinking people supporting them in doing that. 

Threats against them are threats against the rule of law and not acceptable. I expect the matter will be fully investigated by gardaí.

With reporting from Sean Murray

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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