The first major protests of Ireland's presidency of the European Union took place last weekend in Galway, with a number of groups speaking out on issues ranging from racism to fishing in Connemara. They coincided with a meeting of employment/social affairs ministers in a city-centre hotel. The largest demonstration took place under the banner ``Another Europe Is Possible'', in Eyre Square, close to the venue, and was attended by around 500 people.
Gardaí were present in large numbers, and a helicopter hovered overhead. Two people were arrested in a car-park for ``obstructing traffic'' late on Friday evening. Eoin Rice, a well-known activist, was arrested on Saturday morning, and was allegedly beaten while in Garda custody.
In a statement made later that day, Rice detailed the alleged assaults. ``One man stood on my neck as I lay on the ground while several others kicked at me and one man struck me acrossthe legs repeatedly with a telescopic baton which had a large ballbearing on the end. At least a dozen uniformed Gardaí stood by watching this scene''.
Fintan Lane, PRO of the Irish Anti-War Movement, ``unreservedly condemn(ed) the heavy handed approach taken by Gardaí in Galway''. Edward Horgan of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance called for an ``urgent independent investigation of these complaints against the Gardaí''. The Garda press office confirmed that Eoin Rice had been arrested and is due in court in February. They declined to comment on the allegations of a beating in custody but said that there are ``several channels open to him if he wishes to make a complaint''. Eoin was examined by a doctor at the Garda station and, on his instigation, was taken directly to Galway Hospital where a wound to his head was stitched, his arm was x-rayed and bandaged and anti-inflammatories and painkillers were administered.
This serious allegation comes at a time when questions about the accountability of the Gardaí and allegations that they are `out of control' have been recieving enormous public attention as a result of a recent Primetime Programme. The programme in question made extensive use of independent footage of clashes during the Mayday `Reclaim the Streets' demonstration.
It is grimly ironic that that the broadcasting by Primetime of the very evidence that made allegations against Gardaí in relation to the Mayday RTS impossible to ignore or deny outright is now being used by Lawyers for a number of Gardaí as a potential way to have their trials delayed or called off.