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Corrib protestors meet UN Human Rights Rapporteur

Áine Ryan: [email protected]: TUESDAY 04 DECEMBER 2012

GOVERNMENT’S ‘positive’ attitude to human rights issues in Africa are not reflected in its addressing of the controversial Corrib gas project. That was the view expressed by human rights observer, Sr Majella McCarron, when she met the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders recently.

The ten-person delegation, who met Mrs Margaret Sekaggya, included members of Shell to Sea, as well as Kilcommon Parish Priest, Fr Michael Nallen, Sr McCarron and Donal Ó Mearáin.

Majella McCarron spoke about her positive experience, as a Table Observer, dealing with the Department of Foreign Affairs about human rights issues in Nigeria.  However, she told Mrs Sekaggya: “Ireland got the seat on the UN Human Rights Council because of their Foreign Affairs policy and not because of their domestic record. There is no regime or understanding of human rights in Ireland apart from as a diplomatic exercise”.

Mrs Sekaggya was in Ireland to evaluate the circumstances of human rights defenders. She will present a report on her findings next March. Among the many other delegations meeting her was a group from Pobal Chill Chomáin, represented by Vincent McGrath, Mary Corduff and PJ Moran.

The Shell to Sea delegation, which included veteran campaigners Pat O’Donnell and Maura Harrington, raised a number of issues regarding the planning process, treatment of protestors by the judiciary, surveillance and the ‘ineffectiveness of designated oversight bodies in particular the Garda Ombudsman’.

Shell to Sea spokesman Terence Conway said:  “Communities in Ireland have no protection when they find themselves in the path of experimental oil and gas projects. We have been abused and ignored by most institutions of the State and left to defend our rights at huge personal risk. We hope that this report by an independent international expert will make it more difficult for the Irish State to hide its domestic record on human rights.”

Meanwhile, the Pobal Chill Chomáin delegation was accompanied by members of  the justice and human rights organisation, Afri (Action from Ireland). They   told Mrs Sekaggya that ‘the Irish State is failing to live up to its international responsibilities by refusing to carry out an investigation into the policing of the Corrib gas protests, as has been called for in several report, most recently the Frontline Defender report published a week ago’.

At a Press Conference in Dublin, Mrs Sekaggya said she had received ‘credible reports indicating the existence of a pattern of criminalisation of what has mostly been a peaceful protest, including acts of non-compliance and passive resistance’. She also observed that there was ‘tangible frustration amongst local residents, who are standing up for their rights and feel powerless, isolated and have lost trust in public institutions’.
She will present a full report on her visit to Ireland to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013.

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