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A Tainted Process.

category mayo | environment | feature author Friday June 15, 2007 08:48author by various Report this post to the editors

New pipeline routes, court appearances and Garda headlocks.

featured image
Hobson's Choice, now comes in 8 flavours

1) Residents wearing clothes torn by Gardai take a look at the new pipeline route corridors proposed by RPS; 2) Wednesday morning's proceedings in Belmullet district court and; 3) Thursday morning at Bellanaboy.

New pipeline routes
On Tuesday 12th June, the day after police brutally forced an illegal portacabin onto private land through crowds of protesters near Pollathomais, Rural Planning Services (RPS) announced the eight new possible corridors for the Corrib gas pipeline. RPS are the company subcontracted by Shell to find a new route for the controversial pipeline promised in the aftermath of the Cassells report. The selected route corridors were unveiled at a reception and open evening in the Broadhaven Bay Belmullet. The route unveiling was well attended by Shell to Sea campaigners many wearing clothes torn by police at the face off on Monday, underlining the fact that while Shell and their partners claim community consultation ultimately they will use force courtesy of the Gardai to push their project through.

Campaigners reiterated their opposition to the Corrib project in its current configuration. They pointed out that the idea that the pipeline route is the sole problem is a product of the ‘project splitting mentality’ that has marred this project from the outset and that the recommendation of rerouting of the pipeline as a solution to the Corrib conflict comes from the flawed Cassel’s report.

Shell to Sea campaigners brought placards and a banner reading ‘stop before its too late’ into the RPS reception. Protesters unfurled the banner across the hall and called on everyone opposed to raw gas in Erris to get behind the banner. The room was quickly divided into a mass of people behind the banner chanting ‘Shell to Sea’ as a handful of RPS personnel looked on. Having made their point protesters left the hall together to chat outside.

Campaigners up in court
Campaigners were back in Belmullet on Wednesday morning for the sitting of Belmullet district court. Those who were up included Mr John Monaghan of Rossport for charges relating to two alleged assaults on a Garda; five campaigners who stopped peat haulage for 5 hours on Tuesday 5th June using a ‘lock-on’ on charges of breach of the peace, obstruction and failing to obey the orders of a Garda; Mr Ed Collins for alleged assault of a Garda on 10th November last; one campaigner on charges of dangerous parking and three others on charges relating to alleged intimidation. Mr Niall Harnett was in court to bring charges of assault, theft and destruction of property against Sgt. Butler, Inspector Robinson and Superintendent Gannon. All the cases bar Mr Harnetts were adjourned , the bulk of them to the 11th July.

Also present were large numbers of Gardai, over twenty in uniform with the three facing charges in suits. Garda MY72 thought it necessary to bring a baton into court. When an elderly lady sitting next to him playfully slid it out of his pocket he reached for the baton on reflex before muttering something about the baton being an item of uniform and generally getting quite flustered.

Niall Harnett v Sgt. Butler, Insp. Robinson and Supt. Gannon.
Niall Harnett had summonsed Sgt. Butler, Inspector Robinson and Superintendent Gannon who were represented by Liam Guidera. Mr Harnett asked the judge for latitude and patience given his lay status. Problems arose with the summonses served by Mr Harnett on the three Gardai. The summonses had not been filed with the registrar within the four days required but only the night before the court. Mr Harnett appealed to the discretion of the court to allow the summonses to be entered into the record of the court on that day.

Liam Guidera, solicitor for the defendants responded by questioning Mr Harnett’s motivation. He presented the judge with a compilation of Indymedia articles written by Mr Harnett and described him as having “a position of authority” with regards to the site. Mr Guidera proceeded to make representations to the court that Mr Harnett was abusing the processes of law by "inflamatory, defamatory and contemptible" comments against Gardaí on Indymedia. Mr Harnett responded to Mr Guidera's submission, by defending and standing over any Indymedia articles and comments that he make, saying that his motivation in writing such articles is simply call the Gardaí to account and to empower people to stand up to abusive Gardaí.

The matter was then raised of a letter that Mr Harnett wrote to Supt. Joe Gannon to say that should he or the other 2 Gardaí involved, wish to return the camera or its damaged parts to Mr Harnett, then he would make an application to Belmullet District Court on June 13th to have all three charges dropped against them. Judge Mary Devins gave this ruling where she described the letter as

"most definitely an interference in the prosecution, a taint of the process, using the court as a tool, and perhaps a weapon, that the prosecutor Mr Harnett in this case can take up and drop as he sees fit. If a Guard had issued proceedings in a criminal case and in the course of evidence I heard that that Guard had gone to the accused and had said that 'if you do such and such a thing, I will not enter this summons, or if you apologise I will not continue this prosecution', and that person refused to reply and the Guard then entered the summons, and I was given that evidence in court then I would most definitely consider that the prosecution was thereby fundamentally tainted and flawed. I would consider it an abuse of the process, an abuse of the administration of justice and an abuse of the district court. Because of that letter I cannot entertain the summonses, and so they are not before the court, and I have no further comment."

Delays at Bellanaboy
Delays were caused this morning for trucks involved in the transport of peat from the proposed refinery site at Bellanaboy to the Bord na Mona facility at Sramore due to the presence of protesters on the haulage route. A crowd of Shell to Sea supporters blocked the path of trucks for approximately 20 minutes as Gardai attempted to move them along. A resident of the Solidarity Camp was dragged from his vehicle after attempting to drive onto the haulage route and finding the way blocked by a crowd of protesters and Gardai. Several Gardai entered through the back door of the van and attempted to drag him from the vehicle in a headlock, forcefully and deliberately striking the camcorder he had taken out to film the incident. Eventually he was removed from the vehicle which the police drove a few metres down the road and parked. They initially refused to return the keys until he produced his documents (which would have proved difficult, seeing as they were locked in the van) but relented after an hour. Another young local managed to climb on to a peat truck but was quickly removed.

corrib_onshore_pipeline008.jpg

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corrib_onshore_pipeline010.jpg

corrib_onshore_pipeline011.jpg

author by Jimbobpublication date Thu Jun 14, 2007 23:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Judge was looking for a reason to let them off. It's not that uncommon for cops to offer to drop charges for something small if something is returned to the owner, but it seems that when you decide out of decency to make that offer to the cops, your decency is punished. Lesson, next time, when you prosecute privately, nail em to the wall, and offer no mercy.

author by Justin Morahanpublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 01:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If the report is correct, I think Judge Mary Devins did not compare like with like

Niall, in his letter, had stated (according to the report) that if the camera were returned to him he would make an application to Judge Mary Devins's court to have the charges dropped.

According to the report, he did not say "if you return the camera I will not enter this summons" and he did not say "If you return the camera I will not continue this prosecution" (the phrases used in the Judge's analogy). He said he would make an application to the court to have the charges dropped.

In other words, the court, not Niall, would be the final arbiter of whether or not the summonses against these defendants would stand.

How this could be "an abuse of the process, an abuse of the administration of justice and an abuse of the district court" is very difficult to fathom. It is not explained by the Judge's analogy. If the report is correct, I hope the Judge will be requested to explain.

author by Tuberpublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 13:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Video footage fo Garda/Shell/Rural Planning Services incursion on to private land on Monday is available on You Tube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SP7iBPIBkZc

author by Thug Watcherpublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 22:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My heart goes out to the local landowners trying to protect their lands and the Shell to Sea Protestors.

RPS and the Gardaí had no business on private land and are guilty of trespassing. Having watched the YouTube clip and how the Gardaí put the lives of the local people in great danger and assaulted them, they deserve nothing but contempt from all right thinking people. The local people were only trying to defend their land after all, and were legitimately protesting.

It is apparent to me that if you are the sort of person whose first instinct is to do the following: assault people, use vulgar language, harass, murder people, and get away with murder, never to be prosecuted, then An Garda Síochána is the best job for you.

author by Niall Harnett - Shell to Sea.publication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 00:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

With regard to my own case, I made two mistakes, one of which proved to be my undoing.

The first mistake related to the entering of summonses into the court record.

I had summonses issued to me on Wednesday Thursday 3rd May at Westport District Court. These were summons forms that I had pre-prepared along with 'information' forms outlining the offences committed against me. After giving oral testimony and submitting the written information into the court record on that day, Judge Mary Devins agreed to my application and signed the summonses which I subsequently served on Supt. Joe Gannon, Inspector Pat Robinson and Sergeant Dermot Butler MY28. After having served the Gardaí, I should have lodged those summonses, in accordance with the ’rules of the district court’ (http://www.courts.ie), with the court clerk at least four days before the date set for hearing which in this case was Wednesday 13th June at Belmullet District Court. I was ignorant of that rule and because I failed to lodge the summonses in that way, I had to appeal to the discretion of the court to allow the summonses to be entered before the court on Wednesday 13th. Liam Guidera, of Frank Ward & Co Solicitors, Dublin, representing the Gardaí, made representations to the court as to why the court should not allow the late summonses to be entered into the court record.

Mr Guidera brought my Indymedia articles to the attention of the judge, and represented my accusations on the newswire against Gardaí and others as ‘inflammatory, defamatory and contemptible’. This was an effort to give ‘an insight into my motivation as prosecutor’ as he put it, and to prejudice the judge against me, in my opinion. Although this did present me with the opportunity to defend my Indymedia articles and reject his suggestions, I should have just objected to this line of argument as these are matters that were not before the court and this was not being offered as sworn evidence either. It was just a dishonest effort to smear me, which the judge regrettably entertained by asking questions about my legal and journalistic ‘qualifications’ which were not relevant to the court and which I will know better the next time not to respond to.

The second fundamental mistake related to a letter that I wrote to the Gardaí.

On May 23rd I wrote to the Gardaí offering to drop the charges if they returned my stolen camera to me. This was the mistake that proved to be my undoing. The judge regarded this letter as a “definite interference in the prosecution and a taint of the process“. With the benefit of hindsight I can see that, and I accept the judges ruling. Therefore she would not entertain the late entering of the summonses, which I had failed to lodge earlier in accordance with the rules, into the record of the court.

The judge went on to say that she would like to remind me that “the district court is not a circus manned by puppets. It’s a statutory court manned by lawyers, it’s not a theatre and it’s not a political forum”.

I cannot agree with the judge’s suggestion that this is my view of the district court, and I disagree with the notion that the sanctity or integrity of any court is the sole preserve of members of the legal profession when members of the public and … all are held equal before the law.

It was not a wasted effort for me to attempt the prosecution of these Gardaí, nor do I consider it a defeat. I learned a lot and am happy to learn the hard way if it makes it easier for others to initiate their own prosecutions and not make the same mistakes that I made. It’s an ongoing learning process for us all.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/82108
author by Shell to Sea Supporterpublication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 10:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks so much to Niall for explaining how it went and what he learned. It would be great if the powers dealing with Corrib could review their decisions and admit honestly where there could be improvements. There was the same emptiness in the Irish Times editorial on last Thursday. After the past five years I cannot believe that the editor still cannot grasp the central points or is deliberately refusing to be honest. Grateful that Mark Garaven responded in a letter on Friday. One gets so weary of seeming deliberate dishonesty.
Looking even briefly at the above route maps for pipline one sees the sensitivity of the area and shows that all the terrain falls into one or other or more protected habitats. Everyone of them has human habitation within range of corridors. Good to share with us so thanks.

author by spinpublication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 11:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I suspect that the actual route which will happen isnt even on the map above.
the fact that areas are SAC dosent really mean anything, broadhaven bay is a SAC, the pipe will be running right up thre middle of it.
I suspect that shell wants public opposition to all the routes, so they can convince europe that the the route they really want to use is the only one available,.
as for the greens, it is no surprise they never intended to do otherwise, if they had gone in with FG/lab it would have been the same story.
so dont read too much into them lying to get votes, they all do it!

author by Jacqueline Fallonpublication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In my opinion, it is extremely important for political activists to seek professional legal advice and not to represent themselves in court.

It should be noted that, if you intend representing yourself, it extremely important that you do not communicate at all with the accused after they have been served with a summons (it is a serious matter). In Niall's case, the fact that the summons and statutory declaration confirming proof of service was not lodged with the District Court Clerk in time (4 days prior to the start of the court hearing) does not in itself deprive the court of jurisdiction to hear the case. A summons sole purpose is to compel attendance, and once it is served and the accused turns up to court, the summons has fulfilled its purpose and any defect in the summons itself will be resolved. It was solely the fact that Niall, unfortunately, wrote a letter to the Gardaí after the summonses were served, offering to drop the summonses if they returned his camera, that Niall's case was dismissed. Niall, is not a Garda or solicitor and can't get away with such tactics. Niall was after all only trying to get his camera back, albeit it was not the best way to go about it as he now realises.

Another point to note, that when in court only questions pertinent to the contents of the summons should be answered and all others that deviate should be strongly objected to. Niall himself was not summonsed for expressing his views and providing accurate eyewitness reports on Indymedia (he does have a right to freedom of expression), and this should have been objected to strongly, as it was extremely unfair questioning and totally unrelated to the matter before the court. In my view, the judge expressed extremely prejudicial views of him and treated him in a condescending and extremely unfair manner - he did not deserve to be ridiculed by a sanctimonious judge, who believes solicitors solely man the court and are superior to all other people in attendance at court - whatever happened to that well hackneyed (but, obviously, in this judge’s view, meaningless) phrase: “we are all equal before the law”?

Many thanks to Niall for sharing this with us and informing others, and for all his accurate eyewitness reports on Shell to Sea protests on Indymedia, which are very informative and well written.

Best of luck Niall, tabhair aire duit féin, and to all other Shell to Sea Protestors everywhere.

Sláinte chugaibh.

author by uspublication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 13:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What happened was a disgrace and now its time to take on the judge and the court for making fun of you Niall.Its time Judge Devins realised that she cannot do as she pleases.She has got to be made realise that the people are right,not the garda, the courts or her.What right does she think she has to do what she did to you.

author by THpublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The person who never made a mistake never made anything (except perhaps sarcastic comments on indymedia). so feck the begrudgers.

Sure the judge would be inclined to back up the Gardai on a controversial issue and use whatever irregularity as an excuse. Next time, stick to the same rules as they do (apart from destruction of evidence) and don't give them an inch. It's good that you gave an account of it, so the next people to use the courts will know better how to handle it.

Fair play to you for giving it a lash.

I wonder if Mr. Monaghan would be interested in a private prosecution for the alleged assault against him by the Garda ( I say alleged because I didn't witness it personally) ?

author by katiem - Nonepublication date Tue Jun 19, 2007 00:15author email katiem at iolfree dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd like to say a few things.
First, to Niall above. As someone who is, broadly, in favour of the whole Corrib project, I have to say how refreshing it is to read an honest, genuine article such as yours. You did not attribute the failure of your case wholly to bias. Regardless of my views on the S2S campaign, I sympathise with the failure of your case, purely on the grounds that the system seems to be biased in favour ot those in the know, and most of us don't spend our lives in the courtroom. Everyone should have access to our legal system, and I wish you well if you should ever have to go the same road.
Now, to Spin. So, Broadhaven Bay is a SAC, and should not be sullied by the pipeline? What about the tons of untreated human excreta etc. dumped into the bay on a daily basis? Have you walked throught Belmullet on a warm day? That is not the smell of the seaside, let me tell you. Maybe your time would be better spent campaigning for a sewage treatment plant, if you are so concerned about the environment.

author by MacGpublication date Tue Jun 19, 2007 00:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

..to Shell

say_no.jpg

author by mpublication date Tue Jun 19, 2007 13:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lawyers have a saying -
'he who represents himself has a fool for a client'
This applies to judges, lawyers and S2S activists. It is not meant disparagingly.

author by Bob Quinn - Nonepublication date Tue Jun 19, 2007 19:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Photo/

Esso advertisment in Capuchin Annual 1969
Esso advertisment in Capuchin Annual 1969

Related Link: http://www.conamara.org
author by rumpole of the baileypublication date Tue Jun 26, 2007 02:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While Nialls court excursion did nothing save to educate him and us about court procedure we can all learn something from it. THis is that sometimes it pays to pay professionals to act on our behalf. Like them or not most solicitors are fairly professional in their dealings and competent in court. This is why we pay them to act for us.

If the shoe was on the other foot in Nialls case in that he was being prosecuted he would have no doubt availed of free legal aid and would have been well defended or just represented depending on the evidence. This would be at the states expense due to his employment situation or lack of as the case may be.

A conviction held by a person for a cause is a laudable thing especially when one has the courage of ones conviction. This being the case one should do all one can to put ones case forward. In this case I feel that Niall should have been more cognizant of the fact that he would have been better served by employing a solicitor. As it turned out the case was not even heard but in such matters a little knowledge is dangerous as it transpired the case really fell due to Nialls lack of legal knowledge and procedure. Would this have happened if a solicitor was employed.

The question now is how would the solicitor be funded. Well there is no easy way around this but perhaps a portion the social welfare of the collective protesters could have been pooled for a few weeks or perhaps some people could have taken a week out to work and earn money to pay for this. Mr Corduff could have donated some of his prize money to pay the fee. All I feel reasonable suggestions.

While it is regrettable that there is so much conflict because of the whole gas issue is it not time to realise that we must place our trust in the law and abide by it not nit picking the parts that suit us. For if we fail to do so all that waits is anarchy and should that prevail all is lost.

author by hurler on the shorepublication date Sat Jul 14, 2007 17:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Will $hell now answer the key questions concerning the Corrib project that the Rossport Five have repeatedly asked ?

Those question:
Why the gas is not being processed offshore on a platform, which would eliminate the hazard of this contentious and hazardous refinery and pipeline?
Why was it ever necessary to process the Corrib gas, not just “on-shore” but some considerable distance inland (yet classed as the “fore-shore” by some illogic known only to the Irish State’s minions) which required the raw, un-odorized and unrefined gas to be piped through the community of Rossport South at the unprecedented extreme pressure of more than five thousand pounds per square inch or more than four times the maximum pressure of the Board Gais transmission pipelines, themselves classed as high pressure?

Quite the opposite of not being prepared to see the Corrib gas come ashore. The local community in the shape of the Shell to Sea campaign has been sending out a clear message since a least the time when the Rossport Five were jailed in the summer of 2004. That the location of this extremely hazardous chemical plant and it’s raw gas feeder line is the REAL issue and it’s current location, against the advice of the planning inspector Kevin Moor, needs to be changed to locate them both offshore.

It is the key issue for the Rossport Five and those that moved to support them under the banner “Shell to the Sea”, and it is a question that will eventually have to be addressed by any party who wishes to make use of the Corrib gas, after Shell leave. Because until Shell quit there can be no peace in Erris or progress on these issues.

Shell’s statement that an offshore platform is not feasible and too costly falls apart on examination. Current work in the Gulf of Mexico is taking place at more than 3500 meters, 10,000 feet of water. While much of the Gulf of Mexico is shallow producing very hazardous conditions due to hurricanes, the forces and sea state there reaches if not exceeds the sort of conditions off the West Coast of Ireland, specifically the Mullet Peninsular and Corrib field locations. The Corrib field has depths of a mere 1000 feet or 300 meters of water, so refining the gas offshore is feasible and doing that would eliminate the risk from the refinery and at the same time the hazard of the pipeline with un-odorized gas and extreme pressure is eliminated. As any sales gas line would come under the state agency Board Gais most of the current safety issues would reduce as by law such a pipeline cannot operate at no more than 80 bar, 1175 psig although this is still a high pressure line.

The current charred in which RPS acting for Shell have announced proposed “alternative routes” for the land section of the extreme pressure Corrib gas pipeline and various national and local purveyors of pro-Shell “spin” suggest this represents “progress toward a resolution” comes as no surprise. However it represents yet another example of wishful thinking on the part of those same “spin merchants”, including the Irish State, and its pay masters Shell. The reality is that the wrong question is being addressed by Shell through RPS. The key question that the Rossport Five have repeatedly asked has not been addressed let alone answered.

Even when the decision is finaly taken to process the raw gas offshore there remains a whole series of issues regarding the exact location of such a platform of whatever design and how to reduce to zero pollution from the refinery process offshore.

Shell has a worldwide horrendous reputation, as the very worst sort of neighbor, as the ultimate neighbor from hell, which was known even in Erris long before Shell arrival there. Since it’s taking over of the Corrib project, Shell by everything it has said and done has just confirmed that reputation as accurate and the worst fears of the community.

The imprisonment of five members of the community for 96 days probably did more to cement the opposition to Shell nation wide than all the meetings for the previous years. While the events at Ballinaboy from November 2006 onwards with Guards behaving like later day Black and Tans, as well as their actions at Paula Thomas in mid June 2007 with their damage and invasion of private property on behalf of Shell, can only have enflamed the situation.

Both sets of incidents enraged many far beyond Erris as it struck at the core principles of private, property enshrined in the Irish Constitution. The image of a foreign predatory multination aided and abated by the worst elements of the modern day Irish Gormbeanmen and Shooleans has reverberated around the world backed up images of the worst excesses of Germany and South Africa. Yet no one has been held responsible for those acts up to this time!

The Erris population has every reason to seriously question the Advantica report, as it has became known that the parent company of Advantica, Transco, was fined some fifteen million pounds sterling, having been held responsible for a gas explosion from their 1000 psi plus pipeline that destroyed a Scottish village.

Those living in Kilcommon Parish have every reason to be concerned for their safety in view of the findings of Advantica that the sub-sea systems are not fail-safe, that valves will not close if the pipeline fails. The original estimate of a potential gas explosion of 4000 Tons of TNT blast effect from the Rossport pipeline was subsequently revised to more than 16,000 Tons of TNT as sub-sea gas may flow for many hours after a pipeline failure. While people can have little confidence that this project will be operated safely after considering Shell’s record of health and safety failures in the North Sea.

There has been so much public money wasted on so many flawed reports that it is about time The Dublin Muppet Show, admitted they just got it wrong, and are unlikely to do any better in the foreseeable or even far distant future.

Despite their claims that American oil know-how is obsolete, hiring a couple of Yankee consultants, from Wyoming, Oklahoma or even Texas, to advise on where to put the offshore platform and how to engineer it, might be a very good move. If nobody is available or prepared to take the job on, George W Bush should be free in around 18 months, if the point of desperation is reached. But be warned he has a reputation for drilling dry holes! But he might know someone who knows about offshore gas wells and production platforms, as the Texas Gulf is full of such wells and platforms

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