“Your Failure to be Impartial has Relegated You to a Judge of No Good Standing in this Community” - Niall Harnett
Members of the public in a packed Belmullet District Courtroom clapped and cheered as applications to Judge Mary Devins to disqualify herself were made by Shell to Sea lay litigants Niall Harnett and Eoin O'Leidhin in person, and by solicitor Alan Gannon on behalf of a number of his clients which include Pat 'the Chief' O'Donnell and Maura Harrington who all face charges relating to different incidents which happened late last summer in opposition to Shell's failed efforts to lay pipe at Glengad.
Niall Harnett was physically removed by Gardai from the court when he interrupted Judge Devins to say that the 'allegations' against her were “well warranted and true”. “Vicious, Unprecedented, Personal & Unwarranted” is how Judge Mary Devins is quoted in media as having responded to “the attack” of applications against her. But Midwest Radio news reported that Judge Devins denied that she gave any instruction to have Mr Harnett evicted from the courtroom.
Also today "Green?” Minister Eamon Ryan signed off on Shell’s 2009 Environmental Management Plan, which sought consent to start works in relation to the offshore section of the pipeline up to the Glengad valve facility. The consent document is available here:http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/NR/rdonlyres/032E45FA-2905-4A8E...1.pdf
This latest news accompanies the fact that Shell security has begun setting up a security compound in Glengad indicating that works at Glengad will begin in the very near future.
How things evolved in court.
The first person to make an application for Judge Devins to recuse herself was Niall Harnett of the Rossport Solidarity Camp. In his application Mr Harnett put it to Judge Devins that she had shown ill-will towards him, penalised him as a lay litigant and revealed her dishonesty in her application of decisions against him in his previous efforts to prosecute Gardai. Mr Harnett went on to say that her non-impartiality “has relegated you to a judge of no good standing within this community". Mr Harnett was given a rousing round of applause on completion of his application, leaving Judge Devins in no doubt that the majority of the courtroom agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed.
Judge Devins refused to disqualify herself saying that her “impartiality cannot be impugned” and that “any analysis by any interested person, other than those with a colourful agenda, would show her obvious impartiality” She also made the rather bizarre comment that that same impartiality would be shown up in the statistics.
Judge Devins then set a special date of the 18th May for the hearing of Mr Harnett’s cases.
Then followed a similar, but distinct application by Eoin Ó Leidhin to ask for the recusal of Judge Devins. However Mr Ó Leidhin was only able to get half way through his first point of submission before he was cut short by Judge Devins, who refused to hear the rest of his application. Mr Ó Leidhin made every effort to continue his application, which included the assertion that Judge Devins had previously questioned his motivation as a witness in another case, and in those circumstances he felt that she was already of a mind against him. Judge Devins continued to interrupt him as he attempted to make his application; she set a date for hearing for the 18th May and left the court abruptly to jeers from the assembled crowd.
"Eoin's application was the most comprehensive and well articulated submission of the day in favour of her recusal, and it's an absolute disgrace that she walked out as he was making it, and in asking the Gardai to shut him up on her return to court, she denied the public the right and the opportunity of hearing Eoin's arguments in full", said Niall Harnett.
When the judge returned to court, solicitor Alan Gannon, representing Pat O’Donnell, also asked Judge Devins to disqualify herself, which again she refused. Mr Gannon is representing 3 Shell to Sea supporters who are charged with various offences arising out of a cavalcade that was held in support of Maura Harrington’s hunger-strike last September. Another defense solicitor is representing a further three people who are charged in relation to the same incident. Regarding the hearing for this case, Alan Gannon stated that he thought there would be in the region of 20 to 40 defense witnesses involved so he envisaged the hearing would take a number of days.
Mr Gannon went on to make another application to the judge to disqualify herself from the cases involving Maura Harrington. Mr Gannon stated that when sentencing Ms Harrington last month, Judge Devins had claimed to have seen a video of Ms Harrington slapping the Garda, however Mr Gannon stated the Judge hadn’t been shown any such evidence. Mr Gannon claimed that Judge Devins had been “bombarded” with information regarding Ms Harrington and that “other matters were operating” in Judge Devins’ mind and Judge Devins had inadvertently drawn in other matters from other cases. Mr Gannon also questioned why Judge Devins had directed that Ms Harrington should receive a psychiatric assessment, as no issue about Ms Harrington’s state of mind had been raised during the hearing. Mr Gannon stated that his client feared that the Judge had seen a lot of information of incidents involving his client and that the Judge wouldn’t be able to disassociate what she had previously seen in other cases from the particular case being prosecuted now.
Judge Devins refused Mr Gannon’s application and described the 'unique personal attack' against her as “vicious, unprecedented, unwarranted and untrue". At this stage Niall Harnett who was seated in the courtroom interrupted her to say that “It was well warranted and true”. At this stage Judge Devins called on Superintendent Larkin to ensure silence in the court. Supt. Larkin then appeared to indicate to a number of Gardaí to remove Mr Harnett from the courtroom. A number of Gardaí then forcefully removed Mr Harnett from the courtroom (the most aggressive Garda was one that Mr Harnett had recently tried to prosecute for assault but the case was struck out while Mr Hartnett lay in hospital). Again the courtroom erupted in protest and again Judge Devins left the courtroom.
When she returned Judge Devins claimed that she had directed that psychiatric assessment be carried for Maura Harrington’s own benefit as her actions were extreme and in case she was a “danger to herself”. Judge Devins also made the point that Maura Harrington had not appealed the decision to jail her for 28 days. Judge Devins dismissed the criticisms of her previous ruling against Ms Harrington as uninformed and noted that some had taken advantage of special privileges to cover themselves in their attacks (presumably directed at Senator David Norris, who attacked Judge Devins’ judgement in the Seanad). Judge Devins then refused to disqualify herself.
The hearing of charges against Maura Harrington.
The defense case for Maura Harrington was then heard where she is charged with a Section 2 assault on an IRMS security guard and trespass on the farmyard Shell were using. In giving evidence against the charges Maura Harrington stated the she didn’t assault the security guard as alleged. She also stated that she is a relative of the owner of the farmyard and had visited his home plenty of times. Ms Harrington stated she had approached the security guards to find out who they were as there had been a lot of anxiety in the general population regarding the appearance and behavior of these people who wore no identifying marks. Ms Harrington stated the security guards had been using cameras to record peoples’ movement in the area, on the road as well as on the beach.
The next person to give evidence was Colm Henry, who is a Glengad resident who lives 60 to 70 metres away from the yard Shell security were using. He stated that he hadn’t had any participation in the protests but that since early April 08, he and his family had been terrorised by the people with cameras. He stated the security would routinely be filming or watching through binoculars both him and his family going about their business, including filming his wife putting out the washing. They had also filmed him and his grandchildren while they were down on the beach. He said he had made complaints to the Gardaí but hadn’t heard anything back.
In summing up the defense case, Alan Gannon stated that he believed that the security personnel who were on the site were in breach of the Security Act 2004, which overall could lead to a harsher sentence than the charges his client was up on. He questioned how it was that the investigating Garda Hugh Egan had failed to follow up the apparent breach of the security guards not wearing identity badges.
Judge Devins adjourned the case until the 13th of May for her decision.
Irish Times Report – 'Judge's refusal sparks unruly scenes in Corrib case' : http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0409/1....html