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Front Line report 'an awful reflection on policing'

Shane Creevy -

A report launched yesterday, 'Breakdown In Trust: A Report on the Corrib Gas Dispute', raises serious concerns about the assault of Willie Corduff in April 2009. By Shane Creevy.

The report, commissioned by Front Line, is detailed and comprehensive. Front Line was keen to stress that the review was independent, having heard from many different figures in the Shell dispute.

Andrew Anderson, Front Line deputy director, said: “We decided to commission a report on issues related to the right to defend human rights in the context of the Corrib gas dispute following several requests from protestors and others over a number of years."

The primary investigator, Brian Barrington BL, said: “The purpose of the report is to examine whether those involved in the Corrib gas dispute could be described as human rights defenders and to consider any related human rights issues."

He continued: “In order to be a human rights defender a human right has to be engaged: such as the right to life, the right to a clean environment, the right to health. Those issues are engaged in the Corrib gas dispute."

“There have been a number of incidences of regulatory non-compliance by Shell... so on that basis of that I can’t dismiss the concerns of protestors as fanciful. That is not to say they are justified, I have no position on that."

On 22 July 2008, 13 people were arrested for blocking works by Shell, believing such work to be unauthorised. Mr Barrington said that the dispute may have been minimised if authorisation had been posted on the website of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

On 22 and 23 April 2009, protestors were involved in damaging Shell fencing. Subsequently, Mr. Willie Corduff, previously jailed as one of the Rossport Five, was assaulted. Mr Barrington found that Mr Corduff was badly kicked and beaten, as can be heard on the audio clip below.

(Audio: Brian Barrington explains his difficulty with the handling of Mr Willie Corduff’s assault and Andrew Anderson explains the aims of Front Line) Audio available on original website

Mr Corduff was jailed in 2005 over his opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline and subsequently received the Goldman international environmental award in 2007.

In response to the Front Line report, the Shell To Sea campaign reiterated its call for a suspension of all work on the Corrib Project.

Spokesperson Maura Harrington stated that “the Front Line report is a truly awful reflection on policing, governance and regulation in Ireland today... the report upholds the fact that Willie Corduff was assaulted on the night of 22/23 April 2009".

Mr Barrington urged Shell to intensify efforts to comply with regulation standards. He also said that protestors need to be more informed on what work is authorised.

He also said that while there had been speculation on Republican involvement in the protests, he did not find any evidence that the protests were directed by any Republican agenda.