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A recent independent report by a delegation of international human rights and environmental activists has slammed the actions of the Gardai in Mayo for suppressing peaceful protest and creating civil unrest.
The report, issued by the Global Community Monitor (GCM), was compiled from evidence gathered at a public hearing as well as through interviews, emails and video footage. It does not, however, take a position in relation to the construction of Shell’s pipeline.
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Members of the Shell To Sea group, gardai and the media were consulted in the investigative process but requests for a meeting with Mayo county council and Belmullet’s Garda superintendent were rejected. Responding to the report in the local media Tony McNamara, Garda Chief Superintendent of the Mayo Division, claimed the report was “totally biased”.
The report finds that the behaviour of the gardai in Mayo is endangering the safety of people participating in non-violent protests as well as consistently infringing on their civil rights and recommends immediate intervention by human rights organisations.
“The situation in County Mayo arising from the Royal Dutch Shell pipeline and on-shore refinery has already resulted in serious injury, loss of trust in the rule of law and the Gardai and disruption to the culture and values of the area.”
“No outside intervention by the European Union or World Human Rights protection entities has occurred to remedy the situation. This lack of action and appropriate response threatens to create an even more explosive situation.”
Amongst the concerns raised in the report is the harassment of local opponents to Shell’s project in public places including their homes and at public talks. The report also states that there is evidence of gardai verbally threatening people with phrases like; ‘I have you, your time is up,’ and ‘stand up and you will be beaten down’.
There were also accusations of intimidation made against the protesters but GCM were not provided with any evidence to back up such claims. Garda intimidation was backed up by evidence which included eye-witness reports, photos and video footage. Gardai, including senior ranking members, were found to have used excessive force and failed to give proper warning of attacks.
The report finds that the situation in Mayo is causing people who are not aligned with either side of the dispute to lose faith in the Gardai and the government. A local landowner stated that he has “lost respect for the Gardai after the violence around the Shell facility.” Lack of adequate accountability is highlighted;
“People in the community have submitted complaints to the necessary authorities with regard to the issues they have with the police in how they are dealing with people protesting and the public in general.”
“To our knowledge none of these cases have been taken forward. Thus people have lost faith in the system, and have stopped submitting complaints. One of the complaints was sent to Dublin, yet after three and a half months there has been no response”
Global Community Monitor is an NGO which works with communities across the globe facing environmental and human rights problems. Their stated role is to “hold major corporations accountable in the U.S and throughout the world. Through GCM, local community struggles are linked and their efforts multiplied”.
Their delegation consisted of 3 members of Friends of the Earth and two human rights activists and did not involve investigating the safety or suitability of the Corrib Gas project.