The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has voiced its “concern” that gardaí are engaging in profiling by attempting to identify a woman who threw a smoothie at Leo Varadkar in September. According to reports the investigation appears to be singling out women who “attended left wing political protests” or those who live “alternative lifestyles”.
But the ICCL has said such angles of investigation appear to be based on “garda profiling”. And that such behaviour can have a “chilling effect” on future protests.
The concerns were raised in a letter sent by ICCL executive director Liam Herrick to garda commissioner Drew Harris. Based on reports that gardaí are focusing on women who live “alternative lifestyles” and who “attend left wing protests”, Herrick wrote:
We are concerned at the suggestion that Gardaí may have compiled or be compiling lists of people who attend peaceful protests or are otherwise involved in lawful political, social or cultural activities.
Given this, he asked Harris to “confirm or deny” that gardaí have a database of people who attend protests.
Herrick also drew attention to the fact that gardaí are looking into women who live “alternative lifestyles”. He stated that the ICCL is “concerned” at such a development. This is because it “suggests a degree of social profiling” that’s “highly problematic”.
As a result, Herrick asked the commissioner to define “alternative lifestyle” and how someone can become a suspect based on such a definition.
A “chilling effect”
The ICCL director also argued that such monitoring of protestors “is not appropriate”. He pointed out that it’s only acceptable where “an individual is involved in criminal activity”. It’s also only admissible when there’s a “reasonable belief” that an individual will engage in criminal behaviour during a protest.
Herrick told commissioner Harris that:
An individual protester who takes part in a protest should not have to fear that there will be a record of their attendance on a garda database.
He declared that this is “contrary to their right” to participate in and organise protests. The ICCL believes that the existence of such a database to monitor such people “may have a chilling effect” on future protestors.
The ICCL executive also highlighted that a garda database of protestors “cannot be considered a legitimate purpose for gathering and retaining personal data”. He urged the gardaí to “ensure compliance with relevant data protection law and standards”.
The ICCL’s letter comes after a woman appeared to throw the contents of a cup over Varadkar while he was being interviewed in September. In footage of the incident that was posted online, the woman can be seen approaching the tánaiste. She then threw the contents of the cup at him and quickly departed.
Garda attempts to identify her have so far been unsuccessful.
Many people have mocked the fact that gardaí are looking at left-wing protestors and women who live “alternative lifestyles”. And the hashtag “We are all Smoothie Girl” has become popularised on Twitter in response to the garda investigation.
Varadkar has previously criticised the left in Ireland, saying “The far right and the far left aren’t very different to me”. The tánaiste was asked to condemn the actions of US president Donald Trump when he made the comments.
Featured image via Twitter – Screenshot