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Irish Priest accuses Shell of surveillance operations amounting to intimidation and harassment

The Mayo News

Priest’s Shell claims
Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Priest claims Shell has monitored him

Áine Ryan

A PARISH PRIEST in north Mayo claims he has been monitored by Shell’s extensive security arrangements at a location where work on the controversial project is ongoing.

The Parish Priest of Kilcommon, Fr Michael Nallen, told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that, not only were his parishioners ‘prisoners in their own area’ but that the registration of his car had been noted and, moreover, he believed he had also been photographed by security officials at Ballyglass harbour. However, he also said that he was not suggesting the personnel knew that he was a priest.

Meanwhile, Shell confirmed last night that they will investigate the priest’s claims if he contacts the company and furnishes it with more details of his allegations.

“I saw them [the security personnel] with small cameras, running around the security hut. As far as I could see in my mirror they took a photograph and noted my car registration,” said Fr Nallen.

“It wouldn’t be specifically because I am a priest,” continued Fr Nallen, who ministers in an adjacent parish but regularly visits his sick mother in Ballyglass.

He told The Mayo News that since the arrival of a Shell marine platform last May, he believed that security personnel based at the top of Ballyglass pier ‘appeared to be looking at cars’ and ‘to be writing down registrations’ even though it was ‘a public area’.

“The specific incident I’m referring to happened about six weeks ago. But I pass that way a few times a week and they usually come out to the door [of the security huts] when every vehicle passes by and it would appear, I’m almost certain that – along with using binoculars – they write down the registration numbers,” Fr Nallen also said.

“This is a form of intimidation and harassment with photographs being taken,” added Fr Nallen.

Fr Nallen said he understood that Shell needs to ensure its property is secure and that the personnel had been ‘discreet’ when they followed people down onto the pier. He also confirmed to The Mayo News that the monitoring may have eased in the last week since the media attention over incidents at Glengad beach, which are the subject of an official complaint to the Gardaí.

Another priest from the area, Fr Michael Gilroy, said that people were also being monitored as they drove along the road in the Aughoose area.

“I’ve seen these security men from this unnamed firm out with cameras when driving from Aughoose Church along the north coast road when Shell was carrying out drilling in the bay,” said Fr Gilroy.

“I think it’s a bit much that people can’t travel the public roadway without having cameras pointed at them,” he said.

After a number of communications with Shell yesterday, spokesman, Mr Colin Joyce, responded as follows: “The details are so sketchy that we are not in a position to comment. If Fr Nallen has a complaint to make we would invite him to contact us directly so that we can investigate his concerns thoroughly.”

The Mayo News understands that the Bishop of Killala, John Fleming is away on holidays and that the matter will be brought to his attention on his return.

http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4586&Itemid=38

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