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'Gagged' protest highlights lack of democracy in Mayo Forum

category mayo | environment | news report author Tuesday November 03, 2009 15:37author by Rudiger Report this post to the editors

This morning An Bord Pleanala have announced that they are deferring the decision on the onshore section of the Corrib Gas pipeline. Bord Pleanala says that approximately 5.6km (or 62% of the whole onshore pipeline) is considered unacceptable because of its proximity to dwelling houses located within its hazard range should a pipeline failure occur. See the latest RTE news report on this here: http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/1103/corrib.html or Irish Times report: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/1103/...0.htm
More on the Bord Pleanala decision will follow later, this is a report on yesterdays People's Forum in Belmullet and Minister's Forum in Corran Buí.

Yesterday morning, saw the return of the People’s Forum to Belmullet, which was attended among others by a representative of the Garda Ombudsman. During, this members of the community who oppose the imposition of the Corrib Gas Project on the area, outlined some of the issues they have had with the policing of the protests and the subsequent efforts and failures of the Garda Ombudsman. In the afternoon, the community moved and went to hold a silent protest at the Ministers Forum. Some people taped their mouths shut to show how the community have been silenced to facilitate Shell. This forum is officially called the “North West Mayo Development Forum” but is known locally as the “Funny Forum” and it certainly lived up to this local name, and it truly was cringe worthy to see some of supposedly most powerful people in the Mayo and the country perform in this charade.

The point has been made numerous times that the Funny Forum is purely for media spin and to project the image to the wider public that the powers that be are addressing the concerns of the community. However nothing could be further from the truth. In the Mayo News today, a quote from a spokeswoman for Eamon Ó Cuív stated “The ministers were delighted that Shell to Sea attended the forum, even if they had their mouths taped and did not participate”. Perhaps what she could have really added was “This is exactly the type of participation we really want from the community”. See: http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&tas...id=38

In a joint statement from Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile, they state “the so-called forum is completely ignoring the health and safety issues surrounding the Corrib gas project, yet these are the specific issues that are continuing to give rise to conflict and disagreement in Erris’. It continued: “The Ministers’ forum is widely regarded within our community as a sham, and is being used not as an instrument of conflict resolution but as an instrument for Corrib project advancement.”

The Ministers forum had a presentation from Dept of Energy & Natural Resources as well as the Garda Ombudsman, a short speech from Eamon Ó Cuív about the money they have given recently to the area. Finally Denise Horan who has recently joined Shell's PR team from the lofty post of Editor of the Mayo News then gave a presentation of the bribes Shell had also handed out.

The Garda Ombudsman presentation, was given by the Ombudsman's head of communications Kieran FitzGerald and he told the Minister's Forum that 111 complaints had been received in relation to the Corrib protests. Of these 78 were deemed admissible and 33 were deemed inadmissible for investigation. Some 55 files were “closed”– i.e. the investigation had been completed – and 23 cases were still open. However his presentation was met with more or less silence from the assembled forum members. This was in marked contrasts with the earlier People's Forum.

The People’s Forum got off to a slow start, but when Graham Doyle, communications officer for the Garda Ombudsman arrived things livened up. He was a last minute stand in for head of the communications for the Ombudsman Kevin Fitzpatrick (who mysteriously was able to make the “Funny Forum”), and as such didn’t have any of the statistics about complaints relating to the Corrib Gas Project. Mr Doyle did engage well with the forum, however it became clear very quickly that a lot of the people present were overall fairly disillusioned with the effectiveness of the Garda Ombudsman. A lot of the speakers present made the point that the Garda Ombudsman seems to be trying investigate the complaints but at the end of the weren’t achieving any results. A few people quoted cases where they’re was very strong evidence (one had 5 eyewitness and partial video evidence of an assault, another had clear forensic evidence of criminal damage) and that the Ombudsman had sent the cases forward to the DPP for prosecution however the DPP refused to prosecute. This bottleneck at the DPP, who refuse to prosecute with any cases against Gardaí involving Shell to Sea protests seem to be a particular point of contention. Mr Doyle admitted that the Garda Ombudsman had a lot of work to do to prove their credibility.

One, very moving speech came from Winfred Macklin, who spoke of her involvement in the aftermath of a gas explosion in Scotland of a pipeline which was running at between 4 & 9 bar pressure. The Corrib Gas Pipeline is designed to run up to 345 bar pressure until Glengad and up to 144 bar between Glengad and Bellanaboy. Ms Macklin also urged the Ombudsman to speak out against the Garda violence and quoted Mandela who said that “silence is collaboration”. See a clip from Ms Macklin speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9w21g0QVOio

The Ombudsman representative told the forum that they had sought permission to investigate the policing of crowds under Section 106 of the Garda Síochána Act, however this had been refused by the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern. After Mr Doyle stated that he didn’t want to comment on individual cases, one contributor state that people weren’t asking the Ombudsman to comment on individual cases but they should be commenting on the overall violence of the Gardaí and that silence thus far by the Ombudsman Commission was reprehensible.

One point made was that the way the Ombudsman was initially set up, they were constricted on all sides from the DPP, the Minister for Justice, Garda Commissioner and then informally by pressure brought to bear by the Garda Representative Association.

Related Link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1103/1224257962988.html

Can you run 400 metres in 30 seconds
Can you run 400 metres in 30 seconds

A community silenced for big business
A community silenced for big business


Terry Nolan - Head of Shell Ireland in the red tie
Terry Nolan - Head of Shell Ireland in the red tie

author by Rudigerpublication date Tue Nov 03, 2009 15:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

See clip from the People's forum here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9w21g0QVOio



People's Forum - Graham Doyle from Garda Ombudsman
People's Forum - Graham Doyle from Garda Ombudsman



Related Link: http://www.shelltosea.com
author by sampublication date Tue Nov 03, 2009 15:52author email samsimpson at utvinternet dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It was great to see the protest on RTE News last night, particularly after seeing the programme on Willie Corduff recently. It seems that the message of the Health and Safety aspects, as well as to some extent the scale of this theft of our resources, is getting through to the wider public to some extent. This is where it must grow. Great work to all involved, big respect for your tireless efforts.
We are all entitled, if not obliged, to resist this Rape by any means neccessary.
Beir Bua.

author by Chrissie - Shell to Sea Cambridgepublication date Tue Nov 03, 2009 19:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well done all, for your courage, hard work, and devotion; it's everyone's safety, resources, and human rights you are defending against those who always see only the profit to be made from the environment.

author by roobarbancustardpublication date Tue Nov 03, 2009 21:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I just watched the video clip on You Tube of Winifred Macklin. Ms Macklin you were truly awe inspiring today. Looking at the representative sent down from the Garda Ombudsman's Office he clearly felt out his depth and ill prepared. Good so he should!

As Ms Macklin stated people have been pushed around on the beaches as if they were trash. I have seen this too. Like you Winifred I am Irish but brought up in England (not Scotland) and moved back to my roots in Erris. Like you it has made me cry with anger and frustration at the way Irish authority across the board treats its own. Over the last 9 years it has been one sickening display after the other.

Justice in Ireland does not exist for those who stand up for what is right, good and true. However the people of Erris are changing history and changing atitudes and it us up to those of us who know what is the truth to spread the message. Just like you did today Winifred.

I was on jury service today for the first time and was appalled at the lack of propriety in court by the very people who are there to uphold the law namely the guards and the judiciary. Jurors were mixed in with witnesses, guards, reporters and God knows who else. How is any modern, healthily, democratic society expected to deliver justice when the court system is like something from an eighteenth century Hogarth engraving.
I cannot do much as one person but I am going to write an email and a letter to the paper condeming what I saw today. If everyone did that what a different world it would be.

So keep going Shell to Sea, and Pobaill ncumann, and Maura, Niall, Willie, John, Brid and Michael and The Rossport Solidarity Camp et al. I have emailed President Obama about Rossport and asked him to meet with Willie Corduff as the 2007 Goldman prize winner. Its worth trying if we all do it might just happen in time for next months World Summit.

author by Chrissie - Shell to Sea Cambridgepublication date Wed Nov 04, 2009 09:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well said, Roobarb: Winifred spoke eloquently from her heart to express the horror that these good people have been so ill-treated for exercising their democratic rights to defend their clean homeland. I witnessed 'Black Monday', when Gardaí used a Hymac as a battering-ram against peaceful protestors to intall a Portakabin on private land, throwing people around like trash.
Many thanks to whoever filmed Winifred speaking. I'll write to Obama too, and I hope a few more people will add their letters & emails to Obama's inbox.

author by lulupublication date Wed Nov 04, 2009 22:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There's plenty video footage on You Tube of Garda misbehaviour for Graham Doyle to contemplate

author by Weedy Greenpublication date Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Eamon Ryan had some cheek coming into the area to hand out money for a few footpaths when surely he knew at that stage that the pipeline had been declared unsafe by An Bord Pleanala.

Seeing as Bord Pleanala sent out the letters on Monday, the same day that the Minister was down, he would have definitely known at the time.

I thought it was great that John Monaghan and Mary Corduff had a go at him in the Irish times article yesterday asking how he and his department had declared the pipeline was safe.

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