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Irish Times: Corrib protest gardaI face investigation

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent
Published: May 03, 2007

The Garda Complaints Board has confirmed that three senior officers are investigating a series of complaints about Garda behaviour during protests against the Shell Corrib gas refinery in north Mayo.

Some 16 complaints filed by 15 individuals are being investigated in relation to alleged incidents involving over 20 gardaI, most of which are said to have occurred late last year.

The majority of the complaints are being handled by Det Supt Michael Jackson, but Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has appointed Chief Supt Paul Hargadon of Garda Headquarters and Chief Supt Gerry Mahon, head of the Clare division, to investigate two complaints that relate to Supt Joe Gannon of Belmullet Garda station. Last night Supt Gannon said he was “happy to let due process take its course” in relation to the complaints.

Supt Gannon has overseen security for Shell staff and contractors since work resumed at the Corrib gas refinery last October. The total cost of the special operation, involving up to 150 gardaI at times, has been confirmed at 5.4 million to mid-April, according to Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell.

During one of the most serious clashes between gardaI and protestors last November, eight people, including four gardaI, were injured, and one north Mayo resident who was hospitalised is still on crutches. Three summonses were recently issued against three Erris residents, and gardaI in Mayo have said further summonses are pending.

The Garda Ombudsman Commission is due to begin work on May 9th, but the Garda Complaints Board is continuing to handle up to 500 complaints currently on its books – including 38 tribunals. The 16 complaints relating to north Mayo could take over a year to reach referral to board level.

A complaint under separate legislation has been prepared by Dr Jerry Cowley, TD, (Ind) in relation to alleged tapping of his telephone and that of five prominent Shell to Sea campaign members.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s first winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, north Mayo farmer Willie Corduff of the “Rossport Five”, flew home to an ecstatic welcome in Knock airport yesterday. “It’s nice to get an award for a change instead of getting pushed around and being told you are not doing the right thing,” Mr Corduff said.

Family, friends, fellow Rossport Five members Vincent McGrath and Brendan Philbin and supporters of the Shell to Sea campaign were among the large crowd, and up to 200 cars participated in a motorcade that escorted Mr Corduff and his wife Mary via Mayo County Council offices in Castlebar, to Swinford, Ballina, Bellanaboy and Belmullet.

Mr Corduff made an appearance at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oral hearing at Belmullet, where he received a standing ovation.

The farmer and father of six was jailed for 94 days with four colleagues in 2005 over his opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline, and was one of six recipients of the prestigious $125,000 (92,000) international award in San Francisco last week.

The award winners met a number of US Senate and Congress members, including speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, in Washington DC. Ms Pelosi described the “conviction and courage” of the six winners as an “inspiration”. The Goldman prize is known as the “Nobel” of the environment, and is endorsed by over 100 heads of state.

Mr Corduff, and fellow landowners Philip McGrath, Brid McGarry and Brendan Philbin, were permitted by the High Court last month to continue their counter-claims against Shell E&P Ireland, and the consents held by the project for the existing pipeline route must now be dropped.

 

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