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Alleged harassment of Agsi leader Cunningham included letters to home



A criminal investigation into the alleged harassment of a prominent Garda representative group leader is examining correspondence sent to her online and to her home address.

Some of the content was sent to Antoinette Cunningham, the general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi), in the last fortnight and other incidents date back over a much longer period of time.

While it is understood no serious threats were made against her, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) is treating the case as suspected harassment.

The allegations are being taken very seriously as it appears an effort was made to contact Ms Cunningham on a number of occasions over a period over time.

The fact she was contacted at her home address is regarded as very sinister. Gardaí also suspect a Twitter account was set up specifically to reach her online. It is not clear if the same person was behind all of the incidents.

Ms Cunningham has been a very prominent voice in the policing debate nationally in recent years in her capacity as general secretary of Agsi, which represents about 2,300 Garda sergeants and inspectors.

She is the first woman to hold the position of general secretary in any Garda staff association. While she has been present at the Agsi annual delegate conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, this week she made no comment on the investigation.

Balance

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was asked at the conference about the investigation but declined to comment on it or any specific case.

However, speaking generally about abuse and protests targeting politicians and other people with high public profiles at their homes, Mr Harris said gardai must balance the rule of law and the right to protest.

“There is a form of protest going on at the moment which does go to people’s homes and there is a regrettable element of that becoming very personalised,” he said.

At the closing session of the Agsi conference on Wednesday a number of delegates made calls for more drones to be used in Irish policing and for Garda members to be issued with bodyworn cameras.

Sgt Caimin Treacy of the Limerick Garda division and a member of the Agsi national executive said the association was “disappointed by the lack of progress” with introducing bodyworn cameras.

He believed the cameras, which would record Garda members as they went about their work and dealt with members of the public, would aid in the prosecution of criminal offences and assist in public order policing.

Many Garda members want the cameras to be rolled out in a bid to protect them for vexatious complaints of assault and abuse made against them by some of those they deal with.

Sgt Treacy added drone technology could also be used much more effectively by the Garda force. He said drones were being used by a range of policing activities in the UK “including photographs of crime scenes, investigations in rural areas” and searching for missing persons.

“We would also see the benefit of their use in areas where Garda helicopter cannot be deployed, and in crime prevention and detection,” he said.

Sgt Treacy added Agsi was “acutely aware of the privacy and other issues” surrounding the use of drones by gardai. The association has called for Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, to formulate a policy around drone technology.



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