On Thursday April 26th, the Politics and Sociology Society of NUI Maynooth held a show of solidarity outseide the Arts Block with fellow student Jerri Ann O’Sullivan who has found herself at the centre of the Garda Ombudsman’s ‘Rape Comments’ investigation in Rossport.
On a cold, wet, and miserable April afternoon about 30 staff and students of NUI Maynooth gathered outside the Arts Block in a show of solidarity with Jerri Ann O’Sullivan. Jerri Ann, has found herself at the centre of the Garda Rape Comments controversy that the Garda Ombudsman recently ruled on. Chris from the Politics and Sociology society welcomed and thanked everyone that had come out to show their support to Jerri Ann in light of the most recent findings of the Garda Ombudsman; that only one Garda was to face disciplinary action after comments made about rape were captured on camera.
Jerri Ann, was in Rossport Co. Mayo gathering research data about the Shell to Sea campaign group. After she and another woman were arrested after a protest, comments made by Gardaí were picked up on a camera that was being used to gather research data (Transcript of comments found here ). These comments were widely reported in the media and subsequently a complaint was made to the Garda Ombudsman.
Thomas Connolly of FemSoc, mounted the concrete soap box to speak about the prevalence of rape culture in our society. He cited the recent controversial UNILad article as an example of this. He said that the prolifertation of jokes about and trivialisation of rape was detrimental to women’s equality. While the point was made that men were also victims of rape too, it was said that while it is important to recognise that rape can happen to both genders, overwhelmingly the victims of rape are women. Patriacrchal societies would appear to do nothing to protect either gender when they are victims of rape, which is a manifestation of power and dominance. In this instance what is particularly unnerving is the “institutionalised trivialisation of rape”. (Thomas Connolly)
President elect of MSU, Séamus Reynolds also spoke on behalf of Jerri Ann O’Sullivan. She wished to thank everyone who came out in support but also wished to t emphasise the point that her complaint is a “drop in the ocean”. There have been over 100 complaints made to the Garda Ombudsman and thus far no disciplinary action has been taken. Jerri Ann didn’t want to be portrayed as a victim, but hoped that her case would put the focus on Rossport and the Shell to Sea campaign.
Séamus also spoke about how the Gardaí had fared in all of this, declaring that they are human beings too. He spoke about how in Rossport they have become protectors of private capital rather than protectors of the people. He also highlighted the influence that the State has in Rossport. It is in the State’s interest to protect these Gardaí because they are trying to protect a desirable image for the State ie. that it is friendly to private capital.
The point was made that the State should be held accountable for actions that people take in its name. That is to say that the State has a role to play in protecting its citizens, whether that be from in the interests of private capital or from potential victimhood of rape. The trivialisation of rape is a societal problem and it is up to the State to show that this trivialisation and rape culture should not and will not be tolerated. It is probably fair to say that the officers of the State won’t come to this conclusion on their own, so it is the duty of citizens not to let these issues be taken off the agenda.
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