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Street festival greets Shell to Sea's 'Chief' on release

Marian Harrison - Western People

'The real criminals are walking the streets.  By that I mean the bankers, the developers and the politicians.'

There were celebrations in the village of Pullathomas at the weekend after Shell to Sea's longest-serving prisoner was released from jail.

Pat 'The Chief' O'Donnell has spent 158 days of a seven-month sentence in Castlerea Prison for public order offences committed during protests against the Corrib gas project.

Family supporters greeted the Erris fisherman when he walked out the gates of the prison at 2pm on Saturday afternoon.  He described his stay as a "learning experience " and said it had only made him stronger and more defiant.

"The real criminals are walking the streets.  By that I mean the bakers, the developers and the politicians," Mr O'Donnell told his supporters.

Among those to send a message of support to the Eriis fisherman was the newly-elected mayor of Roscommon Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

"Your bravery in standing up to tyranny should be commended," said Cllr Flanagan.  "It was not people who hid under their beds who won freedom for Ireland; it was people like yourself."

Shell to Sea's Maura Harrington was outside the prison waiting for Mr O'Donnell on his release.  She said she was delighted to see him freed but was angered by the "injustice of his imprisonment in the first place".

"Members of the community who prominently oppose the project, particularly those who make formal complaints about garda behaviour, have repeatedly been arrested or summonsed on charges such as loitering or traffic offences which collapse when they come to court, only to be followed up by new charges," said Mrs Harrington.

A cavalcade of cars travelled from the prison back to Erris on Saturday evening before the community gathered for a street festival outside McGuire's pub in Pullathomas on Sunday afternoon.

Mr O'Donnell, who owns a fish farm business in North Mayo, has vowed to continue his opposition to the Corrib gas project.