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MEP visits ‘decent’ criminal, ‘The Chief’ in Castlerea jail

Marian Harrison - Western People

MEP Joe Higgins visited jailed Shell to Sea activist Pat ‘The Chief ‘ O’Donnell in Castlerea Prison on Friday last.

A rally in support of the fisherman was also held in Erris over the weekend.

The Socialist Party representative said he found Mr O’Donnell in good form but was outraged at his jailing.

“He is a victim of the criminalisation of decent people involved in peaceful protest in Erris which highlights the hand over of an entire natural resource to a multinational corporation with not a cent of royalties for the Irish people,” said Mr Higgins.

Mr O’Donnell was sentenced to seven months in prison after failing in his appeal to overturn convictions for threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour and obstruction of gardaí.

Speaking at Sunday’s rally, Maura Harrington said certain members of the Erris community, including Mr O’Donnell, were singled out for their “principled and effective opposition to Shell”.

Meanwhile, MEP Higgins said the political system stands condemned by the Corrib saga.

“It was a scurrilous slander for a circuit court judge to describe Pat O’Donnell as a ‘thug’ and a ‘bully’. In fact, he is a decent fisherman who has refused substantial sums of money that Shell has paid out to smooth its path and choose instead stand against a project that may have deeply damaging consequences for the local environment and the safety of the local community.

“It was particularly vindictive to give Pat O’Donnell consecutive sentences, lengthening his time in prison to seven months,” said Mr Higgins.

He called for Mr O’Donnell’s immediate release from prison and for the Government’s contract with Shell to be “torn up”.

“The state should establish an oil and gas exploration and recovery company which, like the creation of state companies in the past such as the ESB and Bord na Mona, could develop resources for the benefit of society,” he added.