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Shell to Sea activist jailed for protests

The Irish Times – Thursday, February 11, 2010

TOM SHIEL in Castlebar

A CO Mayo fisherman who was the leader of a group of Shell to Sea protesters who surrounded and intimidated four gardaí in an unmarked vehicle was sentenced to seven months in prison yesterday.

Judge Raymond Groarke, at a sitting of the Circuit Criminal Court in Castlebar, told Patrick O’Donnell (52), Shore Road, Porturlin, Ballina, that he was a “thug” and “a bully”.

Garda evidence was given to the court that the four gardaí had been monitoring a Shell to Sea protest cavalcade in Erris on September 14th, 2008 when they were surrounded in their vehicle by a large group of activists.

They included O’Donnell and three others – Kevin Moran (50), a machine driver from Glenamoy; Tony King (65), a sheep farmer from Aughoose, and Martin McDonnell (46) from Glenamoy.

Garda Seán McHale told Judge Groarke he and his colleagues were trapped in their vehicle at Doolough, Geesala, while the group hurled abuse. O’Donnell tried to open the car door and asked him to hand over a video camera, which was not being used. Garda McHale refused to give him the camera.

Judge Groarke said the gardaí had effectively been set upon by a large group of people in a most cowardly fashion and that O’Donnell was clearly the leader of that group.

O’Donnell was given a three-month prison sentence for his part in the incidents at Doolough, when the matter came up at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Castlebar yesterday.

McDonnell was fined €500 and sentenced to four months in prison. The prison term was suspended on the grounds that he sign a bond and keep the peace for two years. Moran and King were fined €500 each.

O’Donnell was sentenced to a further three months, to run consecutively, for a breach of public order at Glengad beach on September 13th, 2008.

Judge Groarke dealt with a number of other District Court Appeals relating to Shell to Sea cases yesterday including that of Niall Harnett (44), a native of Co Clare who has been living in north Mayo for the past few years.

Harnett was described in court as “a full-time protester”. He was convicted yesterday of assaulting Garda Hugh Egan at Glengad beach, where gas from the Corrib field is due to come ashore.

Mr Harnett, who gave an undertaking to uphold the law in future and apologised in court to Garda Egan, is to be assessed for 240 hours of community service in lieu of spending six months in prison.

The Probation Services are to compile a report on Harnett’s suitability for community service. The matter was adjourned to April.

Prominent Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington, who was convicted by Judge Groarke yesterday of obstructing a gate with her car at the Shell compound in Glengad on August 13th, 2008, will be sentenced tomorrow.


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