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Niall Harnett Released on Bail from Custody after 15 Days at Castlerea Prison.
mayo | environment | feature Monday August 17, 2009 20:20 by Carol Weafer - Rossport Solidarity Camp rossportsolidaritycamp at gmail dot com
Niall Harnett has been released from custody following confusing circumstances involving a temporary release of sorts last Friday 14th and a withdrawn 'mute' application at the High Court in Cloverhill today Monday 17th August.
Niall was given what he thought was a 'temporary or technical weekend release' on Friday last at Castlerea, pending his court appearance this morning.
Here's Niall's account of how it all happened.
1) I could reject the conditions, remain in custody, and they would ensure that I got to court for Monday 17th,
I thought about it for a few moments and thought that if I signed the conditions at this point, then it would give me the opportunity to return for the weekend to see my girlfriend Carol at the Rossport Solidarity Camp and find out how she was coping with a view to helping me make my mind up as to what I wanted to do in court on Monday. It would also afford me the opportunity to get some legal advice before Monday etc.
So, rightly or wrongly, I chose to sign the bail conditions temporarily and I was released from custody at Castlerea at approximately 4.30pm on Friday 14th August 2009. I returned to the camp at Glengad at about 7pm and spent the weekend with Carol and my friends at the camp. Please forgive me for not telling people that I was out. I wanted just to keep a low profile for the weekend, just to avoid any fuss or confusion about my release circumstances etc, as I was unclear and confused as to what was happening and what to do pending court today.
I emailed my lawyers over the weekend, explained what happened and met them today, an hour before court at Cloverhill. They told me this morning that, in a nutshell, because I had signed my release and bail conditions, (however temporarily, after misinformation from the prison officers), the matter was no longer a 'live issue' for today's court to determine as I was no longer in custody. The relevance of today's court was in relation to people's liberty and because I was actually at liberty AND had signed the conditions then this was a 'mute' issue for this court and a matter now for the Circuit Court and I must take my application to remove the conditions, to that court, at a later date. Today's application was withdrawn from the High Court and I remain at liberty.
So the effect of all this is that, due to whatever confusion, or however I was misinformed by the prison officers, and however reluctantly ... I have signed the bail conditions fixed at Belmullet the day I was convicted, and I have to live with that for now until I get a date in the circuit court to continue to try and reverse them.
So that's how it happened. Quite confusing and unresolved in my own mind even, after it all. In hindsight I might have done things differently. Sorry again for not saying all this to people over the weekend and for not informing the Indymedia editors, but please understand it's been an awkward and difficult situation to be in and in my own mind, at least, I did not yet feel completely at liberty.
Thank you so much to everyone for all your support while I was in jail. Letters and cards started to arrive at my cell a few days after my imprisonment and lifted me no end. I really appreciate every little thing from the briefest note to every big thing like demos and stalls etc. I am no hero or anything like it and thankfully I was right in that I do not fit the bill of the Shell to Sea martyr etc. What compels people to come and come again to the camp, to persist with the Shell to Sea aims, is what compels and inspires me to press on also. Shell to Sea is a fight for community, environment and the sustainable and proper management of OUR natural resources.
'When wrong becomes right, it's our duty to fight'.
Jail is doable and manageable. I suppose the most difficult thing about it is the time. Doin' time. 8 months is a long time, but all things are relative, and I've met others doing, 3, 5, 8, 10 and 15 years etc. There's a lot of hard men in jail and it feels intimidating, especially in the first few days, but you get to know people quickly and become settled.
Again, thanks for all the letters and the cards and the pictures and the photos. These are the food of life in jail.
So I'll leave it at that for the moment friends. Thanks again all. Stay focused. We fight on.”