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Court Report of Maura Harrington's jailing

category mayo | crime and justice | news report author Thursday March 12, 2009 08:56author by Rudiger Report this post to the editors

Yesterday evening Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington was sentenced to 28 days in prison in relation to an assault charge arising from the incident at Pollathomais Pier on the 11th June 2007. This was the incident in which Garda led by Superintendent Joe Gannon with the assistance of a Shell digger forced their way onto private property, against the wishes of the landowner, so that Shell could place a portacabin at the base of the pier. Maura Harrington has been brought to Mountjoy Prison.

Maura in the bucket before the garda push
Maura in the bucket before the garda push

Also at the moment, Rossport Solidarity Camp member Niall Harnett is in Castlebar Hospital after being kept in overnight, after being allegedly assaulted in Belmullet courtroom by a number of Gardaí including a Garda that he was due to prosecute in Achill court tomorrow morning, for a previous assault. Mr Harnett’s injury occurred when he attempted to act as a witness to a Shell to Sea supporter who was being questioned by a Garda at the back of the courtroom. However Mr Harnett was unceremoniously bundled from the courtroom by 2 to 3 Gardaí and came out the other side of the double doors with injuries. It remains to be seen how serious these injuries are. The last I heard he was getting further x-rays on his back and neck.

Maura Harrington had been charged with 2 offences relating to the 11th June 2007, one for a Section 2 assault on Garda Berry and a Section 6 of the Public Order(breach of the peace) for throwing mud at Supt. Gannon after he had forced the digger through the assembled crowd. The hearing for the assault charge was held at the January sitting of Belmullet court, however at that hearing Maura Harrington refused to take the stand in her own defence due to the fact that Judge Mary Devins had refused to admit the video footage of the whole incident taken by Terence Conway. This was due to the fact that the person who had assisted Mr Conway in transferring the footage from video tape to DVD wasn’t present to give evidence.

How much the Gardaí didn’t want this footage to be shown, was again shown in the February court, this time in relation to the Section 6 offence. This time both Mr Conway and the person who did the transferring were in court however this time the Gardaí challenged everything from where the transferring was done to where the tapes were stored in order to discredit the authenticity of the tapes. At the end of that days court Judge Devins stated that it wasn’t clear whether the Section 6 offence took place on the public place and adjourned so that the Gardaí would need proof that the incident actually took place on a public place. Judge Devins stated that if it was proved that the incident did occur in a public place, she would then be willing to accept Mr Conway’s footage provided that it was transferred to DVD by a Garda in Belmullet Garda station.

As it turns out, the Gardaí provided no further evidence to proof that the incident took place on a public place and so Judge Devins dismissed the Section 6 charge against Ms Harrington.

It must be stated that this specific ruling was very strange as some of the incident took place on the public road and so had to be a public place. The Gardaí seemed to be pushing hard to claim that it was a public place however Judge Devins rejected the Garda claim and dismissed the charge and thus the Pollathomais footage remains unseen in court.

In sentencing Ms Harrington, Judge Devins made much of the fact that Ms Harrington was a former public servant. Judge Devins stated that she herself considered being a servant of the state to be a great honour. Judge Devins also questioned Ms Harringtons motives for protesting citing the enjoyment that Ms Harrington seems to get from being in the limelight. For sentencing for the Section 2 assault, Judge Devins sentenced her to 28 days in prison along with a €1000 fine along with a €1000 donation to the Garda Benevolent Fund and that she be bound to the peace for 1 year. Ms Harrington however refused to sign the bond and so received 2 days in prison for contempt to be run concurrent with her other sentence. Judge Devins also directed Ms Harrington to undergo psychiatric assessment.

Overall I can’t give a judgement on the assault charge against Ms Harrington as I wasn’t in court for the hearing and didn’t see the incident on the day, however the fact no Guard has seen so much as a caution over their behaviour on that day speaks volumes about the real justice in this country.

On that day in the region 20 people were injured to varying degrees. I know of one lady who still complains of an injury to her leg which she received on that day and I know of another five who had to seek medical attention subsequently. Three days after the incident Shell apologised for the distress caused to the landowner but defended their overall handling of the situation. Similarly Supt. Gannon defended his action and said “Our only role was the right of access, and people sought to confront us. We pushed them out of the way."
About a month ago Judge Devins disqualified a farmer from driving after he drove his tractor too slowly and held up traffic, saying that the farmer “represents the individualism and solipsism which is rampant in society”. For Judge Devins to come out with that statement and then to accuse Maura Harrington of mental illness, when in my opinion Ms Harrington strives to overcome the “individualism and solipsism which is rampant in society” is breathtaking hypocrisy.

Other Cases
Another case involving Maura Harrington was an alleged trespass on the Shell site in Glengad and an assault charge on IRMS security man Bobdar Wasneeack. The prosecution side of this case was heard but was then adjourned.
Ms Harrington was also found guilty of a Section 6, breach of the peace charge and fined €500 in relation to the day when President Mary McAleese visited Belmullet on April 21st, 2007. Sean Harington was fined €200 in relation to the same incident.
Michael Healy was sentenced today in relation to his Section 19(3) obstruction charge which he was previously found guilty of. Read the details of this case here: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/90191 He was given a 4 month suspended sentence along with a €750 fine.

Five other new cases involving Shell to Sea supporters were also introduced to the court.

An interesting development was also the initiating of proceeding by Monica Muller against Shell. Ms Muller is claiming that Shell and their sub-contractors broke a previous court ruling given by Judge Devins prohibiting them from carrying out surveys and site investigations on Rossport Commonage. On the 14th November 2007, Judge Devins refused Shell access to Rossport Commonage and accepted a counter-application by Ms Muller prohibiting them from carrying out works on the land until they complied fully with the provisions of the Gas Act. This case was adjourned until the 14th of May to Achill court where the issues of whether there is a prima facie case and whether the applicant has the standing to take the case will be addressed.

Non Court Events
Over the last month the Gardaí have gone on a bit of a spree of handing out summonses to Shell to Sea supporters. In the last month about 25 summonses have been given out to at least 10 different people that I know about, and more are expected. Today outside Belmullet court, Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway received a summons while Pat O’Donnell received 5 summonses today too. Long term members of Rossport Solidarity Camp have also been targeted. This can only be viewed as an attempt to stop people from protesting against the Shell works in Glengad which are expected to begin in the very near future. It remains to be seen what exact effect this new Gardaí tactic has on the protestors but there certainly seems to be a higher level of defiance and confidence in people around the area than there was this time last year.

Related Link: http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1445

Garda trespass and criminal damage
Garda trespass and criminal damage

Paramedics deal with Niall in the foyer of the court
Paramedics deal with Niall in the foyer of the court

The ambulance arrived after a 4 hour wait
The ambulance arrived after a 4 hour wait

Caption: Embedded video Youtube Video


author by Chrissiepublication date Thu Mar 12, 2009 11:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Another well-detailed report from Rudiger. It seems like a mistrial when the accused can't offer video evidence. Best wishes to Maura, Niall, Naoise, & all the campaigners. Be with you soon.

author by Rachel - Shell to Sea Switzerlandpublication date Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thank you for all your detailed court reports. It's important that somebody discloses what's going on in Mayo for people like me, not living in Mayo or even Ireland. All the best to my fellow campaigners, especially Niall.

author by Same as Usualpublication date Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How can this be called a "Court report" or "well-detailed" when the author of the original post writes:

"Overall I can’t give a judgement on the assault charge against Ms Harrington as I wasn’t in court for the hearing and didn’t see the incident on the day ..."

I would have thought that the very least that would be required for a "court report" to be compiled is that the author actually turned up at the court and witnessed the case. It's this sort of sloppy presumption that undermines the case against Shell that is made by S2S and others.

author by Rudigerpublication date Thu Mar 12, 2009 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just in reply to "Same as Usual" to clarify my attendance in court. I was in court yesterday and that is why it is titled "Court Report of Maura Harrington's jailing". I wasn't in court for the hearing of the assault charge in the January and so I didn't write a court report for that day.

Although I don't really see how my attendance or not in court "undermines the case against Shell that is made by S2S and others".

Related Link: http://www.shelltosea.com
author by margaretpublication date Thu Mar 12, 2009 16:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Irish govt.ministers who are travelling abroad for St.Patricks day should be confronted in every country they visit.They squandered our wealth,gave away our natural resources to ROYAL DUTCH SHELL/STATOIL, then jail people of conscience who oppose them.The jailing of MAURA HARRINGTON was a political decision.Send The beggars home ,SHAME them.

author by Curiouspublication date Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Note to Indymedia editors:

This is the article that should be featured. It has actual information about what happened. The other featured article just states Maura Harrington has been imprisoned without any further information.

Whilst I think it awful that anyone would be sent to prison for slapping a guard, the unfortunate reality of any struggle is that if a protestor raises their hand to a cop they can expect the full force of the law to come down upon them. The way people are reacting on this site, you would think they are shocked and surprised that she has been imprisoned.

I have a mate who punched a guard after he verbally abused his mother (called because his younger brother was caught nicking a fuckin Mars bar) and he got a 20 day suspended prison sentence.

This is happening everyday in marginal communities across Ireland. Why dont 'activists' organise vigils/ protests outside the courts every day to highlight the legal injustice working class communities in Ireland face every day.

author by Chrissiepublication date Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Gardaí have been throwing people around with impunity; at the McGrath's Pier invasion, I saw Gards throw Maura (a tiny woman) like a dry branch onto the side the road, as well as other non-violent protestors. They then proceeded to supervise the installation of a steel Portakabin at the pierhead, breaking all Health & Safety regulations by riding on a JCB which they were using as a weapon against the people there.
It isn't just 'working-class' people who get the butt-end of Garda 'law & order' - anyone who defends their rights & lands is liable to Garda attack, & the danger from Shell's raw gas pipeline & polluting refinery threatens people of all classes, ages, & opinions.

author by Ethel and Tom Corduff - Shell to Seapublication date Sat Mar 14, 2009 23:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We were very sorry that Maura Harrington has been imprisoned on a minor matter. Concerning the violence the Garda have carried out over the years in Rossport and got away with, it is one rule for them and another for anti Shell Protestors like Maura.
Maura, we are thinking of you and hope your stay will not be too traumatic. We know you will make fruitful use of your enforced stay.

author by nikav - horrified citizenpublication date Sun Mar 15, 2009 14:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For more than 30 years the majority of Irish people have known about Fianna Fail political corruption and we chose to ignore it, we are now reaping the reward for our inaction. Our Country is going down the tubes, our police and judiciary are corrupt as is the police ombudsman quango and most of the other institutions set up by Fianna fail. Our opposition parties are choosing to ignore what is happening in our society they all fail to realise that when the public lose respect for the Gardai' judicary and political system the public will seek ways to repay their crimes against the people.

author by Gaelpublication date Wed Mar 25, 2009 13:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The problems relating to "Judicial Tyranny" -- of the kind that are probably responsible for Maura Harrington ending up in jail -- were foreseen by some leading lawyers a long time ago.

For example, Thomas Jefferson (Principal Author of the American Declaration of Independence), viewed "with alarm the subversion of the judiciary and its independence of the nation", and devoted the final part of his life trying to prevent it: with only very limited success unfortunately, as far as the present day situation is concerned.

Among Thomas Jefferson's many thoughts on this crucially important political and social issue was the following:

"It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass." (From: http://www.restore-government-accountability.com/judici....html )

No "trial by jury" in Maura Harrington's case, and consequently no possibility of restrictions of any kind being imposed (in court) by the "people in mass" on Judge Mary Devins decision.

See also "Judicial Tyranny, Separation of Powers, Republic of Ireland":
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Judicial+Tyranny%2...earch

author by Seamuseenpublication date Thu Mar 26, 2009 08:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Any citizen who is put at risk of being criminalised and/or being imprisoned by the State should (in my view) be automatically empowered to demand a "trial by jury": if that is what the individual put at risk so wishes.

Otherwise, we have an extremely dangerous breeding ground for both judicial tyranny -- and, far worse, STATE TYRANNY as well -- right here in the Republic of Ireland: and, as Maura Harrington's present situation (in jail that is) all too clearly shows, the nefarious incubator is already producing some very nasty and socially destructive output (as I see things at least).

Trial by Jury - The Final Legal Check on Tyranny:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Trial+by+Jury+-+Th...earch

author by GodHelpUsAllpublication date Sun Mar 29, 2009 18:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Article 38.2 of Bunreacht na hEireann (the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland) states that "minor offences may be tried in courts of summary jurisdiction" -- that is "trial by judge" (without a jury).

And, to make matters even worse, there is no definition of what a "minor" offence is in Bunreacht na hEireann.

The waters get even muddier if you try to find a definition in the "Citizens Information" web site (which I assume is a Government site); it says: "The distinction between the constitutional concepts of minor and non-minor offences equates more or less with the statutory distinction drawn between summary and indictable offences." (Taken from http://www.citizensinformation.ie/categories/justice/cr...cases )

What a mess? What a recipe for State Tyranny?

From http://www.fff.org/freedom/1295e.asp (and with Maura Harrington in mind):

"Ordinary citizens have been — and still are — outgunned by wealthy, powerful, special interests whose fortunes too often depend upon forcing people to observe laws that are not in the public interest."

"America's Founders were worried that the central government they created might someday grow too powerful and begin to pass laws which would violate the rights of the sovereign people. But they had an 'ace in the hole' — a magic bullet — that they believed would suffice to hold this new, experimental government in check. That was the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers."

No such worries it seems for the Founders of the Republic of Ireland??? -- and now look at us.

author by James Kellypublication date Mon Mar 30, 2009 22:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One of the main blockages we are up against is a grossly ill infromed populace.

State/Corporate media ensure this treachery is buried, only appearing with a story when it has some form of a negative which they can spin against Shell to Sea or anyone who questions the 'reality' of the situation.

One plausible antidote to this would be a nationwide campaign advertising the websites which have accurate info on the situation.

Otherwise our efforts and awareness remain within the domain of the activists and isolation will remain the name of the game for the state and shell.

Information is power let us spread the news of the rotten deal, the deal to end all deals.

author by Arm-a-Geddenpublication date Tue Mar 31, 2009 13:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lets hope Dennis O'Brien sticks it to all the rotten Irish Media, its well overdue a complete overhaul.

The economics of the media require further synergies. This means we could see the emergence of one key media conglomerate in the independent sector to rival RTÉ. What odds that Denis O’Brien will control INM, Communicorp and TV3?

Related Link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0330/12242436864....html
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