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.
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.
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.
Caption: Embedded video Youtube Video