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Shell ignores the law but gets campaigners jailed

category mayo | environment | feature author Wednesday March 24, 2010 13:06author by Andrew N Flood - WSM - personal capacity Report this post to the editors

featured image
Jail Shell for Not Playing by the Rules

This week as it was revealed in the Irish Times that 20 months after entering into a legal agreement with local fishermen Shell has still not submitted an application as required to the Environmental Protection Agency to review the emissions licence for the experimental gas pipeline it is imposing on the people of Erris. Yet this week 27 Shell to Sea campaigners are being prosecuted on behalf of Shell in the local courts and today one of them received three five month sentences.

The entire history of the project has been one where laws are introduced for Shell and hundreds of state and private personnel are deployed to enforce this Shell law. Yet those who stand up to Shell find themselves beaten, arrested and jailed. Several campaigners now have permanent injuries arising from such beatings and several more have spent time in jail despite the fact that An Bord Pleanala actually confirmed that Shell’s plan for the experimental pipeline did not meet safety requirements. Well paid media hacks have been deployed to slander the campaigners as part of a multi-million PR spend in this battle between the Golaith of one of the largest multinationals in the world and a David composed of farmers, fishermen, school teachers and their supporters.

Throughout the campaign the Gardai have arrested campaigners on all sorts of weird pretexts to get them out of the way for Shell. Fisherman Pat O’Donnell was actually arrested under the loitering section of the Public Order Act while fishing his normal route in Broadhaven bay! The reason was not hard to see, the vast bulk of Shell’s pipelaying ship the Solitaire, on the horizon. Many of these farcical arrests collapse as soon as they get to court. There is a week long special sitting of the court in progress to try and clar some of the backlog of arrests that has built up and despite the enormous establishment bias against the campaign the first couple of days have seen most charges being dismissed. One such campaigner (and fellow WSM member) James McBarron has just had all three charges against him thrown out, in one case video evidence directly contradicted the testimony of the Gardai who charged him with obstruction. Another favourite target of the Gardai, Maura Harrington, who has already been jailed four times also had a charge of obstructing traffic dismissed.

The sentencing of Niall Harnett is particularly farcical. On a recent court appearance he was trapped between two sets of doors by a group of Gardai who roughed him up. As with all such cases his attempt to prosecute one Gardai for assault failed on a technicality but as anyone who has spent a day in the district courts is aware the Gardai routinely retaliate when accused of assault by pressing assault charges in return. So today the court believed that Niall assaulted three Gardai at once, including an inspector and a sergent and in court! And that no less than seven Gardai managed to cram into the space between the doors with Niall to witness this extraordinary event.

People present in the court reported that the Gardai testimony was full of contradictions but the story itself is farcical. You’d laugh at it if it was not for the fact that it has been used to give Niall three sentences of five months each. Luckly they are to run concurrently so he won’t be spending over a year in prison on such fantastical grounds. If his appeal fails maybe only 3 or 4 months of his life will be stolen from him. In court Niall stated: “Inspector Doherty, Sgt. Butler and Garda Egan, I am not prepared to apologise for standing up to them, because they are bullies.”

Mayo Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway responded to the harsh sentence by pointing out that: “This sentence is further evidence of the selective application of the law in relation to Shell’s project in Erris. While campaigners are receiving heavy jail sentences, the pipeline which Shell have illegally brought on land at Glengad, as ruled by An Bord Pleanàla, remains in place.”

The state is now taking such desperate measures to criminalise protests because despite the enormous resources at their disposal (which have included not only hired mercenaries but Naval gunboats and air force planes) Shell have suffered delay after delay in the face of the local resistance. They aimed to complete their experimental gas pipeline by 2003, now seven years later in 2010 opposition has again forced them back to the drawing board and to admit that at a minimum completion will be a full decade late with a new target date of 2013. Heads are starting to role once more inside Shell, the Irish Times reported that “Linda Cook, the former head of the gas and power division, was given a $7.6 million severance payment”.

Time is not on Shell’s side. In particular with the onset of the financial crisis, when workers in Ireland are seeing their pay, conditions and social services slashed to bail out a tiny wealthy elite of property speculators and bankers, the scale of the Great Oil & Gas Giveaway under which Shell were given the Corrib field is being revealed. There is growing anger that billions of euro worth of gas and oil that could be used to fund healthcare and education are being given away for next to nothing under terms negotiated behind closed doors by a politician later jailed for corruption. For years the domestic capitalist class and the multinationals have milked workers in Ireland with a minimum of resistance. The struggle in Erris carries not only the threat of having to hand back the gas and oil but also the more general threat of demonstrating that resistance can work. That is why no section of the establishment from the Gardai to the Navy to 900,000 a year media hacks like Pat Kenny have held back when it comes to slandering and smashing those who continue to resist.

Even the Green Party minister Eamon Ryan, now forcing the project through against the very local resistance he once supported, recognised what was going on when in opposition. In a Dail speech on 24th November 2005 he argued “Anyone who examines from the outside the process that led to a decision being made on the appeal in this instance would agree that it was not conducted in an open and fair manner. ... I have serious concerns that the Government constantly took Shell's side, in effect, throughout this process. ... I contend that he [Taoiseach Bertie Ahern] put remarkable and untold pressure on An Bord Pleanála to accept the Government's will.”

Niall has lodged an appeal, if it fails he will be jailed alongside local fisherman Pat O’Donnell who is serving seven months in Castlerea for resisting Shell. It’s important that we demonstrate that those whom the state are targeting are not standing alone. For that reason this Saturday Shell to Sea campaigners will be traveling from all over Ireland to show their support to Pat O’Donnell outside the jail.

Caoimhe Kerins from Dublin Shell to Sea said of the planned protest “We are going to be there on the 27th to support Pat because he is an example of man that could not be bullied or bought. His jailing is yet another example of the very harsh punishments being given to prominent campaigners for what are minor public order offences. The community living close to Shell’s proposed refinery are being criminalised, both in sections of the media and through the abuse of the justice system, for their opposition to this disastrous project.”

Hopefully you’ll join people from all over Ireland at the gates of Castlerea on the 27th March, Saturday at 15.30hrs. Local groups are arranging transport there and back from around the country, if you are in Dublin and would like to book a space to travel down with Dublin Shell to Sea please text or ring Dublin S2S on 086 736 2417 . Tickets 15-20 euro depending on final costs. Even if you can’t make this protest contact Dublin Shell to Sea at the web page below and get copies of their ‘Great Oil & Gas Giveaway’ leaflets to give to your friends, family and fellow workers to further warn ordinary people of the great rip off that is in progress.

More information : http://www.dublinshelltosea.com
Follow the struggle as it develops at http://twitter.com/wsmireland
Previous articles from this author on the struggle against Shell http://anarchism.pageabode.com/cat/rossport

author by MI7publication date Mon Aug 16, 2010 15:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I understand Niall has been released.

author by Gary - Dublin Shell to Seapublication date Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Please see here for a video of the alledged "assault"


author by jayopublication date Thu Jul 01, 2010 09:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

will you put the link up of the video where niall was assaulted for which he is now in jail, i cant find it anywhere, i thought it was here, it should be availble to view if there is a man in jail and evidence can exonerate him. The public should be able to judge it.

author by Boadiceapublication date Wed Mar 31, 2010 09:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This question has been raised in public before (in April 2007), a few months before the destruction of the ancient heritage site at Baronstown (which was a very interesting part of the "Tara Heritage Complex") -- please see at http://www.indymedia.ie/article/81823#comment189323

With our oil and gas reserves now in mind, perhaps this core issue -- relating to the infallibility (or otherwise) of our judges regarding the law -- now requires further consideration, and that we all need to give much more thought to it at this very tricky time in our history?

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/83306

author by old codger - pensionerpublication date Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fred Johnston is right we need to place more emphasis on foriegn media. Trying to efect changes to the constitution while the Fianna Fail criminals are still in power will be futile though, because they controll every facet of the state. Judiciary,Gardai,Media, state boards etc.
I attended the protest for Pat o Donnell at Castlerea and not once did i hear the Fianna Fail party condemned by name, The government was named but who is the government ? ANS= Fianna Fail.
So we need to use the correct name of the instigators of this and many other crimes against our country.
I wonder would it be possible to try and get Panorama interested ? or would they also be intimidated by their government?

author by Justice Seekerpublication date Mon Mar 29, 2010 19:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To: Fred Johnston at Mon Mar 29, 2010 17:01

I would agree that mounting constitutional challenges is -- in theory -- a very good way to go about correcting some of the government wrongdoing we've all ended up being badly saddled with, especially when there are plenty of extremely serious issues to mount constitutional challenges about.

However, and if you ever try to do it (as I have done), I believe you will find that -- in practice -- it is simply not possible to mount constitutional challenges these days: for the simple reason that you will be blocked at very point by our grossly corrupt and cowardly legal profession.

Overall, and for several years now, we have a Government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial) that is making a complete mockery of our written Constitution (Bunreacht na hEireann) in certain very important respects, and it is doing so with impunity: despite the fact that, under the terms of Article 12.8 our President has to make the following declaration:

"In the presence of Almighty God I do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare that I will maintain the Constitution of Ireland and uphold its laws, that I will fulfil my duties faithfully and conscientiously in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and that I will dedicate my abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland. May God direct and sustain me."

Similarly, our judges, ALL of them -- under the terms of Article 34.5.1 -- have to "solemnly and sincerely promise" to "uphold the Constitution" -- a principle which they have now turned into a very sick joke (again with impunity).

Laws to our lawyers are like spiders' webs it appears, which are designed and maintained to catch and entrap small flies: but not the larger and much more dangerous wasps.

Related Link: http://www.humanrightsireland.com/DrAnneJeffers/5July20...nally

author by Fred Johnstonpublication date Mon Mar 29, 2010 17:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The idea of protecting the rights of ordinary citizens over the wishes of a multinational such as Shell wouldn't enter the think of a government who are making ordinary people pay for the greed of bankers, so things will not change. The present Irish government is not concerned with the welfare of ordinary Irish people and if we don't see that by now, we never will. Some in that government may even take the perverted view that Shell is good for us, their decisions are good for us. Remember this is the government that sent two Irish warships against demonstrators at Shell's behest: to turn the defence forces against their own citizens is surely a breach of some element of the constitution. One way to go up against this sort of thing is to mount constitutional challenges, for example, to have the welfare of citizens of Ireland underscored and see how we are protected against the intrusion of foreign businesses. Another is to make what happens at Shell more widely known; and I mean in the world, through YouTube (this is being done) FaceBook, Bebo, Twitter - and by making sure that every single press release issued is sent to UK and European news outlets. Get someone to translate your press release into French, another into German. Get in touch with French and European TV networks: this is not hard, it's easy with the internet but it takes a little dedication from one or two people. Allow nothing to happen in secret or be confined to local media. Invite - it's a funding question, so maybe a whip-round - European journalists to visit Rossport and speak to demonstrators. Get in touch with Euronews at:
60, chemin des Mouilles,
BP 161 - 69131 Lyon
Ecully Cedex,
Tel:+(33) 4 72 18 80 00
Fax:+(33) 4 78 33 27 17

Related Link: http://www.euronews.net/contact/
author by C - Shell to Seapublication date Thu Mar 25, 2010 21:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Great day today in Belmullet Court.

"Unlawful detention" leads to Shell to Sea case dismissals
--- Only 1 of 27 campaigners was convicted this week, 1 got the probation act and 25 were dismissed or withdrawn ---

Judge Gerard Haughton ruled today at a special sitting of Belmullet District Court that Shell to Sea campaigner, Eoin Lawless was "unlawfully detained" by Gardai who held him in custody without charge for 6 hours and held him for 27 hours in total last May. Due to this, another 8 related cases were subsequently withdrawn by the State.

As well as being unlawfully detained, seven of the nine people involved were remanded to prison by Judge Mary Devins until released by order of the High Court a number of days later. All nine were also banned from entering the county of Mayo, while their case was being heard.

Ten other cases were also withdrawn today, including prosecutions relating to removal of illegal Shell netting at Glengad. Defendents in these withdrawn cases included a landowner on Shell's proposed pipeline route, and daughters of two of the Rossport 5, as well as Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway.

Shell to Sea spokesperson, Maura Harrington said "Today the unbalanced policing of Shell's operations in Erris has been exposed in court. The treatment of campaigners over the last five years has amounted to extra-judicial punishment."

Ms Harrington continued "The question remains, why were most of these cases proceeded with for many months and then dropped at the last minute? And is this an attempt by the State to discourage peaceful protest and intimidate campaigners who oppose Shell?"

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