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Focus on sinister events surrounding Shell Corrib Gas project

“He examines issues relating to Shell security firm, I-RMS, including surveillance of residents, and licensing and vetting of staff, such as the former staff member who travelled to Bolivia with late Irishman Michael Dwyer in late 2008.”

The analysis in the report of a number of incidents relating to the Corrib gas dispute is critical of Shell, the Garda, I-RMS security, which is employed by Shell, the Department of Energy and a minority of protesters. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The Irish Times – Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Frontline report: Main points

Gardaí from outside Mayo should investigate the alleged assault on Rossport farmer Willie Corduff.

Gardaí should employ a trained lawyer as human rights observer.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission should again seek permission to conduct a policies and practices investigation into policing of the Corrib gas dispute.

Shell should intensify its existing efforts to comply with regulations and review its networking arrangements.

Peaceful Corrib gas protesters can be classified as human rights defenders under UN guidelines, but violent protesters can not.

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The Irish Times – Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New inquiry into alleged assault urged

LORNA SIGGINS, Western Correspondent

AN INDEPENDENT report for the Frontline human rights organisation recommends that gardaí from outside Mayo carry out a new investigation into the alleged assault on Rossport farmer Willie Corduff (56) a year ago at the Corrib gas pipe landfall at Glengad.

The analysis by barrister Brian Barrington of a number of incidents relating to the Corrib gas dispute is critical of Shell, the Garda, I-RMS security, which is employed by Shell, the Department of Energy and a minority of protesters.

The report, to be released today, publishes medical records and an independent medical assessment that dispute claims by Shell’s security contractor that “not a finger” was laid on Mr Corduff on April 23rd, 2009.

It finds that residents protesting peacefully on health and safety grounds about the gas project have the right to be described as “human rights defenders” under United Nations guidelines.

The Frontline international foundation for the protection of human rights defenders, which was founded in Dublin in 2001 and is supported by Irish Aid, commissioned the report after several requests from protesters against the project and others.

The first in a series of violent clashes between protesters, including residents, and gardaí occurred after Shell resumed work on the Corrib gas terminal in September 2006. .

Frontline had sent a small delegation of observers to monitor protests in north Mayo in 2006 and found it could not respond in an ad-hoc way to the escalation of incidents in the following two years.

It commissioned research from Mr Barrington, who has extensive experience relating to policing and human rights work in Northern Ireland. His remit was to examine whether those engaged in protests could be considered to be human rights defenders and to ascertain whether or not there were legitimate human rights concerns about the policing of the dispute.

Mr Barrington’s review focuses on incidents ranging from the alleged assault on Mr Corduff last year to the sinking of fisherman Pat O’Donnell’s boat, the surveillance and monitoring of protesters and the response to breaches of regulations by the developers. He also examined claims of intimidation of Shell contract staff and allegations of republican involvement in the Corrib gas protests.

In the analysis of the alleged assault on Mr Corduff, Mr Barrington obtained hospital records which state Mr Corduff had “been kicked all over the body” and experienced loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea and vomiting.

All X-rays and a CT brain scan proved normal and he was discharged the following day.

Mr Corduff, who was jailed in 2005 over his opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline and received the Goldman international environmental award in 2007, was taken to hospital early on April 24th, 2009. The previous day, he had crawled under a truck at Glengad to protest over what he regarded as unauthorised work by Shell contractors at the Corrib gas landfall.

Mr Barrington sought the opinion of Dr John Good on the medical reports. Dr Good has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross and regularly assesses asylum seekers who have made claims of assault or torture.

He found that Mr Corduff’s injuries were “totally consistent with a history of assault”. HSE West refused his request to interview the ambulance drivers on duty.

Mr Barrington is critical of the subsequent handling of the Garda investigation into the alleged assault on Mr Corduff and he recommends it be investigated anew by gardaí from outside Mayo.

** The DPP has decided there are no grounds for a criminal prosecution arising from allegations that masked men beat Mr Corduff during a protest in Co Mayo in April 2009, Conor Lally writes .

Mr Corduff was taken to Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar. He claimed he was dragged from under a truck by at least six men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas who beat him about the head and knees.

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The Irish Times – Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Call for rights observer if onshore Shell gas line upheld

LORNA SIGGINS

THE FRONTLINE report on the Corrib gas dispute recommends that a human rights observer be assigned to Erris if the onshore pipeline is given approval by An Bord Pleanála.

It recommends that An Garda Síochána should employ a trained lawyer as a human rights adviser to review policies and practices and advise on policing.

It also recommends that the Garda ombudsman commission seeks permission again to investigate policing of the Corrib gas dispute. An application to do so by the commission to then minister for justice Brian Lenihan in 2007 was refused.

The report notes that the Corrib gas dispute has been the “single greatest cause” of complaints to the commission since its foundation. It also says the commission should publish investigation reports.

The report by barrister Brian Barrington recommends that Shell intensifies its efforts to ensure regulatory compliance, in the light of previous breaches by the developers.

It notes that Shell and its agents currently employ a former Mayo county secretary, a former Garda chief superintendent and a former editor of a Mayo newspaper, giving rise to “the appearance that Shell is seeking to influence those who regulate them, rather than to comply with those who regulate them”.

Mr Barrington says that although “the announced role” of the former chief superintendent is to liaise with the community, one leading community group said the former senior garda had never contacted it.

He points out that he does not doubt the integrity of those employed by Shell in this capacity, however.

Members of Pobal Chill Chomáin, which was established to seek a compromise onshore solution for refining gas, have also stated that they were placed under Garda surveillance.

“Given that some people with paramilitary backgrounds have attended the days of action, it is understandable that the gardaí may be anxious to know who is involved in the different organisations,” he says, but Pobal Chill Chomáin had not organised any such days of action. He says that any such monitoring should be “proportionate”.

Mr Barrington found no evidence of republican direction of protests, although individuals associated with various republican organisations did attend. He also examined reports of intimidation, but found most of these related to people not talking to each other.

He was unable to substantiate allegations of criminal damage, but notes that some protesters did cause damage to a Shell fence on the night of an alleged assault on protester Willie Corduff last year.

He examines issues relating to Shell security firm, I-RMS, including surveillance of residents, and licensing and vetting of staff, such as the former staff member who travelled to Bolivia with late Irishman Michael Dwyer in late 2008.

Mr Barrington is critical of the Garda handling of a protest at Pollathomas pier in 2007, when 20 people were injured. He highlights lack of information supplied by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, which led to confusion about whether development work at Glengad had been authorised.

He is critical of what he says were misleading or incorrect statements by several senior gardaí in relation to the handling of a court order obtained by Monica Muller preventing Shell or staff from trespassing on commonage.

He was unable to explain the sinking last year of fisherman Pat O’Donnell’s boat.

He continued that the detention by gardaí of another boat owned by Mr O’Donnell “appears unlawful”.

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BREAKDOWN IN TRUST: A REPORT ON THE CORRIB GAS DISPUTE

The Frontline report entitled: “Breakdown in Trust: A Report on the Corrib Gas Dispute” report is available to
download here.

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