Back in June, the Gardaí reported that there had been 93 incidents of ‘assault’ recorded which involved intentionally spitting or coughing at a Garda member.  

It is little wonder then that a survey of garda rank and file members found that 87% welcomed the introduction of so called ‘spit hoods’ as an additional layer of PPE to protect members under their supervision from deliberate coughing and spitting incidents.

That same survey also found that 86% of members agreed with the view that spit hoods should be retained as an additional layer of PPE after the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no such level of support for the use or retention of Spit-Hoods among the venerable members of The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, however.

The (entirely predictable) ICCL position was something that John McGuirk highlighted in May.  John also suggested at that time that on this particular issue, the ICCL should go and take a running jump.

Unfortunately, the ICCL did not take up John’s suggestion and in fact have recently doubled down on their outright opposition to the gardai’s use of spit-hoods as a protective measure.

They outlined this objection along with many more, in a quite frankly hysterical submission made last week to the internal Garda Review of the matter.

In that submission the ICCL supports the view that spit-hoods  are “medieval” and “barbaric”; and say that those subjected to them have often been “treated like a dog.”

For the ICCL there is in fact no circumstance whatsoever that could justify the use of a spit-hood by a member of the Gardaí.

Here is what they say on this in their submission:

“ICCL is completely opposed to the use of spit hoods at any time. Hooding has long been considered by human rights bodies as a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, and, when other factors are present, a form of torture.” 

There is a clear attempt throughout the ICCL submission to draw an equivalence between a garda in Cork or Dublin making use of a spit-hood as an option of last resort and the use that is made of spit-hoods in situations involving, among others, terrorism  suspects being subjected to “sensory deprivation.”

It is this kind of nonsense that gives genuine human rights discourse a bad name.

The Garda Commissioner’s view, which appears far more credible and proportionate is that “anti-spit guards are only to be used as last resort and in line with the Garda Decision Making Model, which includes at its centre human rights and our Code of Ethics.”

But the ICCL clearly do not believe that the Garda Commissioner or rank and file garda members should have even this minimal level of discretion.

Remember, for the ICCL there is quite literally no scenario of any kind that can justify the use of spit-hoods.

In fact, it is difficult to avoid the view that for the ICCL at least, the 87% of gardai who welcomed the introduction of ‘spit hoods’ are little more than torturers apprentices.