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Shell to Sea Submission to the UPR Follow-up programme

Shell to Sea

To Whom it concerns,

Regarding the Follow-up programme on recommendations to the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in Ireland, we would like to draw attention to the situation as regards policing in the area known as Erris in North West County Mayo on Ireland's western seaboard. This area has been the location of ongoing conflict between police and local communities as a result of a government decision to allow the development of a massive natural gas processing plant (the Corrib Gas Project) proceed in a populated and environmentally sensitive area. (See background overleaf for more details).

Policing activity in Erris has included surveillance, profiling, harassment, verbal abuse including threats of rape, physical assault, use of heavy machinery against unarmed citizens and the misapplication of public order legislation to attempt to break protests. Police tactics have been the subject of strong criticism from human rights observers ranging from the FrontLine Defenders, Global Community Monitor, AFRI and the TABLE observers. In November 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya visited the area to report on the situation of human rights defenders here in Erris. Unfortunately however none of the recommendations that relate to the Corrib Gas Project that Ms Sekaggya made on her mission to Ireland have been implemented.

It is noteworthy that in the time since Ms Sekaggya visit many of the issues identified by her with regard to policing in Erris and the police (Garda) ombudsman have emerged again in the context of a series of controversies that involved the attempt by to  Garda John Wilson and Sgt. Maurice McCabe to bring to light systemic abuses within the force and the opprobrium with which they were treated by the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner, the sacking of the Garda Special Recipient who had been liaising with the whistle-blowers and the bugging by persons unknown of the offices of Garda Ombudsman. We trust that other NGO's will be availing of this follow-up process to keep your office fully informed of the issues arising from these controversies, for our part we are simply drawing to your attention the extraordinary parallels between Ms Sekaggya's observations with regard to whistle-blowers and the police ombudsman’s powers and independence, or lack thereof. The main point of which is that none of Ms Sekaggya's recommendations have been implemented or even given serious consideration by the Minister for Justice, moreover we believe that in his refusal to allow investigation into persistent human rights abuses, protect whistle-blowers or bring about truly independent oversight of the Gardaí, the Minister has in fact shown contempt for the observations of the Special Rapporteur and, by extension, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights itself.

Of particular note to Shell-to-Sea was Ms Sekaggya’s recommendation to:

(j)      Investigate all allegations and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute in a prompt and impartial manner, conduct investigations regarding the actions of the police and adopt the measures necessary to instruct and equip the police in the area to discharge their functions adequately, particularly with regard to the policing of protests and crowd control;

Not only has the Government of Ireland failed to act on this recommendation but recently the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter rejected the call for an inquiry into the policing of the Corrib protests saying “I do not see a necessity for an independent inquiry into the policing operation in north County Mayo.


Another recommendation that Ms Sekaggya made that was directly linked to the Corrib Gas project, related to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was:

112(b)        Consider requesting an examination of the practices, policies and procedures of the police in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute.

No action has been taken by GSOC on this recommendation. Under a previous administration the office of the Garda Ombudsman was refused permission to conduct exactly such an investigation in 2007 by then Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan, thus highlighting the limits of the Ombudsman’s powers. There has been no attempt at such an investigation since that time.

Other relevant recommendations include:

(h)     Repeal section 106, part 4, of the Garda Síochána Act (2005) to ensure full independence of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission when conducting examinations on practice, policy and procedure of the police;

(k)     Until section 106, part 4 of the Garda Síochána Act (2005) is repealed, give consent for the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to conduct an examination of the practices, policies and procedures of the police in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute;

Neither of these recommendations have been implemented.


Another recommendation in which Shell to Sea has an interest but which has also failed to be acted upon is:

(q)     Enact adequate overarching legislation to protect whistle-blowers in all sectors of activity, ensuring that it complies fully with the United Nations Convention against Corruption;

Not only have the Irish authorities failed to act on this recommendation but the two Garda whistle-blowers who exposed major and systemic wrongdoing within the Gardaí were undermined by the senior Government politicians and their conduct was  labelled as “disgusting” by the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan. Although the public furore over this remark led to Commissioner Callinan's resignation, we are no closer to seeing “adequate overarching legislation to protect whistle-blowers in all sectors of activity” nor do we believe is there a political will to implement such legislation.


In this submission we strongly urge the OHCHR to take up the recommendations made by Ms. Sekeggya and raise the matter of policing in Erris with the Irish Government at the highest levels. It is incumbent on the OHCHR to do this as our area has been the location of consistent police malpractice and as we have indicated previously, the issues that pertain here also pertain at a national level and highlight severe problems within the administration of justice that allow human rights abuses to become institutionalised in certain cases and effectively be covered up by inadequate systems of oversight.

The current situation in Mayo is that each allegation of police malpractice is investigated seperately either by police officers from other areas or by a wholly inadequate Ombudsman's office, an office which successive Ministers for Justice have repeatedly restrained from conducting a full investigation of Corrib policing. In the local court of justice judges issue convictions based on Garda statements that are contradicted by their own video evidence, only to be successfully appealed in higher courts months or even years later at great expense and personal cost to those involved. Most recently allegations made by a former Shell contractor OSSL that they supplied  alcoholic products to the value of €35,000 to local Gardaí at the company's request are being investigated in a process that we consider highly dubious, partial and unlikely to unearth any wrong-doing that may have occurred.

Shell-to-Sea have repeatedly called for an independent international inquiry into the policing of the Corrib Gas dispute. This call has been supported by opposition politicians, former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday and Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu among others. We ask that the OHCHR also support this demand.

It is clear to Shell-to-Sea that until such time as international pressure is brought to bear on this issue we will continue to witness our friends and neighbours suffer harassment, physical assault, surveillance and profiling by local police carried out with the sneaking approval of government. These are real and documented human rights abuses that continue to traumatise our community and it is incumbent upon the OHCHR to pursue the matter and demand that the Irish Government abides by the principles of the UN declaration of Human Rights, a document which currently has no writ here in Erris, County Mayo, Ireland. It will be a very sad legacy if in future years this is remembered as a time when the right to protest in Ireland was effectively suspended and injustice went unchallenged by those in a position to do so.

Thank you for reading this submission we sincerely hope that you can take our concerns and suggestions on board and pursue them vigilantly through your offices. Please take a look at the attached documents which include

ShelltoSea_UPR_FollowUp.rtf63.55 KB
Posted Date: 
30 April 2014