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Press Release: Unfounded case against fisherman Jonathan O'Donnell withdrawn

Today's sitting of Belmullet District Court saw the unfounded case against Jonathan O'Donnell withdrawn due to the absence of evidence.  Mr. O'Donnell will now be taking a case alleging wrongful arrest against the Gardai in relation to this matter, which took place when he was working in his traditional fishing ground in Broadhaven Bay last June, when the Solitaire pipe-laying ship was in the area.  Gardai boarded his boat and arrested Mr. O'Donnell on June 25th for allegedly loitering (in his place of work), but the case has now been dropped.  Mr. O'Donnell was jailed in relation to this charge, and was only released after a false imprisonment case was taken to the High Court.

Shell subsequently moved Mr. O'Donnell's nets, pots and other fishing gear without his consent – this property has never been recovered.  Mr. O'Donnell is taking a case to the High Court in this matter, alleging loss of property, wrongful arrest, human rights abuses, and abuse of powers by members of An Garda Siochana. 

Despite assurances given by Minister Eamon O Cuiv at a meeting in May that local people opposed to Shell would have their rights respected, Mr O'Donnell's fishing rights were not vindicated. 

One other man, Trevor Houghton, was convicted of failing to comply with the direction of a Garda, and fined, despite showing photographs in court that he was outside the area that he had been asked to vacate when he was arrested.

Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington said: “The Gardai have shown their bias in favour of Shell ever since the company arrived in this area, but rarely more clearly than in Jonathan O'Donnell's case.  They simply decided to trample all over his right to fish when Shell told them that they wanted to install their pipeline.  Minister Ryan has previously stated that the rule of law should apply equally to everybody, but here Jonathan's traditional and constitutional right to fish this area was pushed aside.”

She continued: “Today's events show a continuation of political policing in this area, and a refusal by the judiciary to even countenance finding against the Gardai, even when they are contradicted by photographic evidence.”

ENDS

For verification or further comment, please contact:
Maura Harrington
Terence Conway

Notes for editors
Shell asks fishermen to move pots from the bay
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0625/1224249509284.html

Two Shell objectors arrested at sea
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0626/1224249574346.html