‘Offensive’ WhatsApp messages targeting female Gardaí are of “real concern” to the force.
Yesterday, the Policing Authority heard that Gardaí have opened an internal investigation to identify members who produced ‘malicious’ WhatsApp messages about their female colleagues.
The messages have been widely shared in Garda circles and the Garda Commissioner has now sent a circular to all members warning those behind them to desist and urging those who were targeted to come forward.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Irish Times Crime Editor Conor Lally described some of the messages that have been doing the rounds.
“One of the WhatsApps essentially contained an allegation that a senior female officer in the Gardaí had been involved in a drink-driving incident,” he said.
“That was compiled and shared around Garda circles and it actually went viral.
“This is really the problem with all of this. It was actually shared around very quickly and reached a very, very large group of people – the majority of them in the Gardaí.”
He said some of the other messages labels members ‘scabs’ for working overtime on the day the GRA withdrew voluntary overtime in early October during the dispute over Garda rosters.
He said a third incident saw a female member of the Gardaí targeted for the manner in which she was representing her colleagues.
“We assume that means she works in one of the staff associations but we don’t know that for certain,” he said.
He said that overall, there seem to be a few of the threads doing the round and all bar one seem to be linked to the row over Garda rosters.
Mr Lally said it is not clear whether the messages are rooted in misogyny but noted that, “Certainly, the fact that they are female members would heighten the concern around this.”
He said the force historically has always been male-dominated and the point was raised at the Policing Authority yesterday that only eight members of the force had made formal complaints of sexual harassment in the last decade.
He said that both Policing Authority member Elaine Byrne and Garda Deputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon agreed that the figure seemed ‘unrealistic’.
“In that context, any targeting of female members - particularly when you have several female members being targeted at the same time by a very large group of their colleagues - that would be a real concern for the Gardaí,” said Mr Lally.