There is an underlying problem in Irish society that affects every Irish citizen whether or not they are aware of it; the misconduct and inattention of certain members of An Garda Siochána – the alleged protectors of the streets of Ireland and the people that walk them. Even more worryingly, perhaps, is the lack of regulation that these so-called ‘protectors’ find themselves under.
The problem is that, due to a number of factors such as the Gardaí being consummately exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, it is not outside the realms of possibility for Irish citizens (who rely on the Gardaí to keep the streets and indeed those who walk the streets safe) to find themselves to be victims of circumstance and being completely alone and without authoritative aid when targeted on the street. This does not just happen in Dublin.
Jack Lipscombe* (47) lives in Newbridge, County Kildare. While driving through his estate on a Monday evening at approximately 19:00, Mr Lipscombe noticed a young man sitting outside his house with a hood covering and hiding his face. After asking the youth was he alright from the safety of his car, and getting no response, Mr Lipscombe exited his vehicle and approached the stranger that was on his property. As he drew closer, he observed that the youth had a knife in his hand and was making unsteady movements with the blade. Mr Lipscombe ordered the teenager off of his property immediately and threatened to call the Gardaí, to which the youth replied “Call the Guards, they won’t come.”
Lipscombe telephoned the Gardaí immediately (adding that he lived alone and was afraid to go to bed with this person outside his house) and was assured that a Garda car and two officers would be out to assist him as soon as possible, but after three and a half hours they were yet to make an appearance. Mr Lipscombe went to bed alone and afraid, and received no phone call from the Guards to enquire after his safety or provide an explanation as to why no help arrived. “They didn’t even ask me for my number when I rang them” he explained to me.
Edward MacBride is a retired Garda Officer who insists that “Upon receipt of a complaint … the Gardaí will attend the incident and become the investigating Garda. He/she is responsible for establishing did such an incident take place and then investigate it if it took place.”
Mr Lipscombe confirmed that none of the protocol described by Mr MacBride took place. When asked how a case like Mr Lipscomb’s could possibly be ignored, the Garda Press Office terminated my phone call with them.
Garda Mac Bride further went onto say that from the victims’ point of view, they need to establish who the Gardaí are, what station are they from and get contact details immediately. It is important to get a Pulse ID number from the Gardaí as soon as possible after the incident as well (Pulse is the Garda computer system for recording crime and all incidents), as this enables the victim to check out what has happened in relation to the investigation of their particular incident. “If this is not done, the case may not be taken quite as seriously as it needs to be as the victim is not showing an interest in following up their own case.”
Thiago Reboucas is a Graduate student in his late twenties, and is a victim of a street assault that was carried out in broad daylight in Dublin City Centre, at approximately 11:30 in the morning while he was on his way to college. Mr Reboucas spoke of turning off of Thomas Street and rounding a corner to walk down Hanbury Lane when he was attacked by two teenagers. “One winded me, and while I was down trying to catch my breath the other hit me around my lower neck and shoulder blades with something like a bat.”
Reboucas believes the attack was an ambush and was racially motivated, as the two young men did not try to steal anything but were fixated on tormenting him.
“They spat on me and were calling me names in loud voices that I didn’t understand. They didn’t try to take my phone or my wallet or anything, even though they easily could have. The attack only lasted about a minute, maybe even less, but I was so shocked and incredibly traumatised for quite a while after it happened.”
Even though Reboucas’ assault was outside a well-known business that had CCTV, in the morning and there were people all around him, not only did no one attempt to assist Mr Reboucas but no one called the authorities, with one person even calling after the victim as he walked away informing him that “there is no hope for anyone who gets started on in this area. The Guards don’t care about us.”
Regretfully, Thiago had even more to report about racial attacks in Dublin. “My roommate, Burak, was walking down Ushers Quay one evening and he got attacked too. They came at him from behind and, like my attackers, did not try to steal anything.”
Thiago recounted how Burak was repeatedly shouted at and kicked to the ground.
According to the Central Statistics Office, since 1994 there have been 162,398 recorded crime offences of attempts and threats to murder, assault and harass people on the streets.[i]
Also in the past two decades, there have been 1,516,024 cases of theft and theft-related offences. Of these 1.5 million cases, 40,964 have been thefts directly from persons. [ii]
Here is where it gets scary. Of these 1,678,422 offences, I wanted to find out how many arrests and convictions were made. After searching the internet extensively for the number of arrests and convictions made in Ireland in the past twenty years and being unsuccessful, I decided to ring the Garda Press Office. Before hanging up on me, the Press Office told me that they did not have to disclose the information I wanted as it is “up to the discretion of the Garda on the scene to determine what needs to be done at the time”.
In a very roundabout way, the Guard I was on the phone to used the ‘Freedom of Information’ card on me. In other words, she told me that according to the law this was none of my business and I would continue to be unsuccessful in finding out how many assaults had been taken seriously. This means that there are any number of cases of threats, assaults and thefts on our Irish streets that have never fully been dealt with and have, essentially, been waved away and swept under the rug.
It is important to make clear that this report is not suggesting that all members of An Garda Siochána are neglecting their duties, deliberately avoiding areas in the country that are known to be places of unrest and dysfunction. However, even one Guard ignoring their duties is one too many. On the official website of the Gardaí, some of the core functions of the force are listed as;
- The detection and prevention of crime.
- Ensuring [the] nation’s security.
- Working with communities to prevent anti-social behaviour.
- Promoting an inter-agency approach to problem solving and improving the overall quality of life.
In areas of Ireland such as Hanbury Lane where Thiago Rebocuas was attacked, there needs to be more of a Garda presence rather than less because, with regards to what that passer-by remarked, the solution to societal unrest and insecurity is not to avoid an area because it is known to be ‘bad’.