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Watchdog recommends disciplining senior Irish Police officer over handling of Corrib Gas Protest

Friday, October 30, 2009
The Irish Times

Watchdog recommends disciplining senior garda
LORNA SIGGINS Western Correspondent

THE GARDA Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of An Garda Síochána in relation to the handling of a protest over Corrib gas in north Mayo over two years ago.

About 20 civilians and two gardaí were hurt in the incident. The GSOC decision was referred to the Garda Commissioner last July. An ombudsman spokesman said yesterday it had not had notification on the outcome.

A Garda spokesman confirmed that “a file has been received for a decision to be made by the Garda Commissioner”.

The GSOC is reissuing copies of the decision to 14 complainants, following confirmation by The Irish Times that at least five residents who have had their complaints upheld did not receive letters posted by the ombudsman on July 14th informing them of this.

The GSOC recommendation suggests that a “less serious breach of discipline be considered” under the Garda Síochána (Discipline) Regulations, 2007, regarding the garda at the centre of the investigation.

Where a breach is treated as “less serious”, the type of sanctions which may apply include reduction in pay not exceeding two weeks’ pay; a reprimand; a warning; a caution; or advice.

The GSOC investigation was undertaken under section 95 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, after receipt of complaints over Garda handling of a protest at Pollathomas pier on June 11th, 2007.

Some 20 civilians and two gardaí were injured when a landowner objected to trespass on his property by contractors for Shell EP Ireland. Several arrests were made, but the case regarding one of those detained was dropped at the direction of the DPP. The landowner, who had been unwell, was hospitalised afterwards.

Contractors later removed a portacabin placed on the pier for survey work on receipt of letters from the landowner’s solicitor.

Some 18 complaints were submitted to the GSOC in relation to the Garda handling of the situation. Rossport resident Mary Corduff, who received treatment for injuries, was one of 14 people who were told in October 2007 their complaints were deemed admissible. Four complaints alleging criminal behaviour were not deemed admissible.

The GSOC initially asked the Minister for Justice whether it could investigate the complaints under section 106 of the Garda Síochána Act. This was turned down by the Minister. The investigation was pursued under section 95 of the Garda Síochána Act. Some 68 gardaí were contacted by the GSOC – a move criticised last April by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1030/1224257680085.html

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Thursday, June 14, 2007
The Irish Times

Shell apologises for landowner’s distress
Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

Shell E&P Ireland has apologised for distress caused to a north Mayo landowner during this week’s preparations for a Corrib gas marine survey.

However, the company says it is not apologising for its handling of the preparations on Monday, which resulted in 20 local residents and two gardaí being injured during a confrontation over the placing of a portacabin near Pollathomas pier.

In a related development, An Taisce’s consultant, Leo Corcoran, says the proposed alternative pipeline route options presented by consultants for the company this week must take into account the location of the gas terminal within a public drinking water catchment.

Company representatives visited Pollathomas publican and landowner Paddy McGrath on Tuesday night. This followed Monday night’s clashes which resulted in injuries and left Mr McGrath, who has not been well, in a very distressed state.

Mr McGrath maintains that the portacabin was placed without authorisation on his property, and he sought the assistance of neighbours and the Shell to Sea campaign when contractors, accompanied by up to 50 gardaí, arrived on the scene with the structure and a JCB digger.

His solicitor, who had tried unsuccessfully to speak to the Garda superintendent in charge of the operation in an attempt to resolve the situation, issued Shell with a notice to move the structure the day after the clash.

Mr McGrath’s legal representative also informed the Garda station in Belmullet that his property had been trespassed upon, and he did not know precisely who was responsible for the trespass. If it was not moved, Mr McGrath intended to take legal action to have it removed. If the Garda or other persons interfered with Mr McGrath’s action in defence of his property, legal proceedings would be taken without further notice, it said.

Shell E&P Ireland said it believed it had done nothing wrong, but planned to move the structure “in the interests of harmony”. It said it had been given written authorisation by Mayo County Council to place it on a temporary basis at the base of Pollathomas pier as support for a marine survey of Sruwaddaccon Bay.

The hydrographical and geophysical survey, which has been deferred, is part of the company’s work on identifying modified routes for the onshore pipeline. The Garda Sub-Aqua Unit had been assigned to provide security for the work.

The original pipeline route, which led to the jailing of five men two years ago, was set aside almost two months ago by the High Court.

P J Rudden, director of RPS Consultants, plans to narrow down eight potential route “corridors” to four within the next month, but says that there are technical and environmental difficulties with all eight. All eight cross designated areas under the EU Habitats Directive – including Sruwaddaccon Bay.

Mr Corcoran, a former Bord Gáis engineer, says that any new routing will require a code of practice which must take into account the gas refinery’s location in a drinking water catchment supplying 30,000 people. The terminal’s location is central, and the project must be reviewed in its entirety, he has pointed out.

However, Mr Rudden, who is also chairman of the National Transmission Gas Standards Committee, said that this was not his understanding.

A pipeline code would apply regardless of the presence of the terminal, he said, but the role of RPS is “limited to the onshore pipeline and does not extend to the terminal or the offshore pipeline”, he said.

© 2007 The Irish Times

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Irish Times

Gardaí in clashes at pier over Corrib gas survey
Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

Gardaí, north Mayo residents and opponents of the Corrib gas project were involved in a physical confrontation at Pollathomas harbour last night, which led to a number of injuries being sustained and one arrest.

The dispute arose over attempts by contractors for Shell E&P Ireland to make preparations for survey work in Sruwaddaccon Bay. The company says it was trying to place a Portaloo on Pollathomas pier for surveyors, but residents say that the contractor was attempting to cross private land.

Gardaí had stepped up their security presence in the area over the weekend with deployment of patrol boats to assist in finding an alternative route for the onshore gas pipeline. Deployment of the water unit is expected to add to the cost of Garda security, run at over €6 million to mid-April, but a Shell spokeswoman said that this was a matter for the force.

Shell E&P Ireland is due to start surveying one possible route, up Sruwaddacon Bay, this morning, and during yesterday’s confrontation onshore the Garda water unit maintained a presence on Sruwaddaccon bay, with a patrol craft which is normally based on the Shannon river and several rigid inflatables.

Vincent McGrath of the Rossport Five said that the physical confrontation developed when about 50 residents and Shell to Sea supporters attempted to stage a peaceful protest.

“They [ the gardaí] refused to make arrests, and allowed a JCB to drive down towards us, putting lives at risk,”he said.

However, one man in his 20s was arrested for allegedly assaulting a garda.

The tense scenes at Pollathomas occurred several hours after emergency staff had spent 23 hours battling a number of fires which broke out in forestry and scrubland close to the Corrib gas terminal site at Bellanaboy.

The blaze, which is believed to have been sparked off by the hot dry weather, was reported at Bunahowna on a Coillte-owned forestry at about 5.30pm on Sunday.

Fire units from Belmullet and Crossmolina fought the blaze throughout Sunday night, and had quenched it by 9.30am yesterday, when there was a report of several fresh outbreaks.

The Belmullet and Crossmolina units were joined by a unit from Ballina and the blaze was brought under control by 4.30pm, according to the fire service.

A spokesman said that about 25 hectares had been affected and that there were no injuries. Wildlife would have been affected, he said.

PJ Moran, a farmer in Glenamoy and member of the Shell to Sea campaign, told The Irish Times the fire had spread to within 300 to 400 yards of the Shell terminal site at one point on Sunday night.

The blaze was in close proximity to the original onshore pipeline route across the Glenamoy river, he said, and highlighted once again the serious health and safety issues surrounding the project.

The fire risk posed by adjoining forestry had been raised at the Bord Pleanála oral hearings into the terminal.

The appeals board inspector, who was seriously concerned about the control of dangerous substances on the terminal site, said in his report that it was “unclear whether there would be a requirement to remove forestry within the vicinity of the site”, and noted that the “threat of bogland fires during dry periods is unknown”.

© 2007 The Irish Times

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