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Call for rights observer if onshore Shell gas line upheld

Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

THE FRONTLINE report on the Corrib gas dispute recommends that a human rights observer be assigned to Erris if the onshore pipeline is given approval by An Bord Pleanála.

It recommends that An Garda Síochána should employ a trained lawyer as a human rights adviser to review policies and practices and advise on policing.

It also recommends that the Garda ombudsman commission seeks permission again to investigate policing of the Corrib gas dispute. An application to do so by the commission to then minister for justice Brian Lenihan in 2007 was refused.

The report notes that the Corrib gas dispute has been the “single greatest cause” of complaints to the commission since its foundation. It also says the commission should publish investigation reports.

The report by barrister Brian Barrington recommends that Shell intensifies its efforts to ensure regulatory compliance, in the light of previous breaches by the developers.

It notes that Shell and its agents currently employ a former Mayo county secretary, a former Garda chief superintendent and a former editor of a Mayo newspaper, giving rise to “the appearance that Shell is seeking to influence those who regulate them, rather than to comply with those who regulate them”.

Mr Barrington says that although “the announced role” of the former chief superintendent is to liaise with the community, one leading community group said the former senior garda had never contacted it.

He points out that he does not doubt the integrity of those employed by Shell in this capacity, however.

Members of Pobal Chill Chomáin, which was established to seek a compromise onshore solution for refining gas, have also stated that they were placed under Garda surveillance.

“Given that some people with paramilitary backgrounds have attended the days of action, it is understandable that the gardaí may be anxious to know who is involved in the different organisations,” he says, but Pobal Chill Chomáin had not organised any such days of action. He says that any such monitoring should be “proportionate”.

Mr Barrington found no evidence of republican direction of protests, although individuals associated with various republican organisations did attend. He also examined reports of intimidation, but found most of these related to people not talking to each other.

He was unable to substantiate allegations of criminal damage, but notes that some protesters did cause damage to a Shell fence on the night of an alleged assault on protester Willie Corduff last year.

He examines issues relating to Shell security firm, I-RMS, including surveillance of residents, and licensing and vetting of staff, such as the former staff member who travelled to Bolivia with late Irishman Michael Dwyer in late 2008.

Mr Barrington is critical of the Garda handling of a protest at Pollathomas pier in 2007, when 20 people were injured. He highlights lack of information supplied by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, which led to confusion about whether development work at Glengad had been authorised.

He is critical of what he says were misleading or incorrect statements by several senior gardaí in relation to the handling of a court order obtained by Monica Muller preventing Shell or staff from trespassing on commonage.

He was unable to explain the sinking last year of fisherman Pat O’Donnell’s boat.

He continued that the detention by gardaí of another boat owned by Mr O’Donnell “appears unlawful”.


The Irish Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2010