BY ADAM MURPHY
Denny Larson, director of the San Francisco-based human rights group, Global Community Monitor (GCM), visited Ireland last week. His
trip was to follow up on the visit last year of a delegation to inquire
into the policing of the protests against Shell’s scheme to install a
production pipeline and refinery in Rossport, County Mayo.
delegation from South Africa, Holland and the USA held public hearings
and witnessed first-hand the brutal behaviour of gardaí towards
peaceful protestors. The delegation issued a report documenting Garda
misbehaviour and the widespread feelings of residents that their
community is “under siege”. (This report can be read on the GCM website
This year, Denny Larson was joined by GCM
colleague Ruth Breech, an experienced activist dealing with community
campaigns around the world, and South African environmental campaigner
Desmond D’Sa . D’sa is a neighbour of Shell’s massive refinery in South
Durban, which began as a small operation and has grown to be the
largest on the African continent.
D’Sa chaired a public meeting at Liberty Hall in Dublin last Thursday
evening when the issues of Garda tactics and strategies were discussed.
A number of points were raised in the discussion:-
The police in Erris seem to have a policy of NOT arresting people if they can avoid it.
policy was admitted by the local superintendent in the Garda Review
magazine (October 2006 Issue). If the protestors are actually doing
something wrong they could easily be arrested and brought before the
courts but in the few cases where this has happened the cases are
usually dismissed. But the Garda Síochána seem to be using violence as
a way of circumventing the courts. While this is obviously better for
Shell, it’s unclear why the police should be actively trying to get out
of taking people to court.
The Garda operation in Mayo is chaotic and dangerous.
are receiving poor guidance on their role, with some admitting in court
that they do not know what they are supposed to be doing and have not
been given any training in dealing with demonstrations.
closed, vehicles are stopped, protestors and bystanders are detained,
but there is no clear understanding amongst the members of the Garda
Síochána exactly what their strategy is.
For example, as recently as
last Wednesday week, local man Ed Collins, who was thrown into a ditch
at a protest in November 2006, saw his case finally dismissed by the
court at Belmullet. After a number of hearings, the judge said that the
whole case could be summed up in one word: “Confusion.”
Liberty Hall event, which was attended by human rights and
environmental activists from Ireland, as well as a representative from
the Garda Ombudsman, also heard contributions from many people who have
attended demonstrations at Bellanaboy.
Rossport Five member Micheál Ó Seighin was also present and gave an update on the campaign against Shell.
was pointed out that a recent Dáil question by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó
Snodaigh discovered that the policing of the demonstrations in Mayo has
cost €8.9 million so far and is expected to break the ten million mark
A recent recommendation by the Ombudsman that the Department
of Justice should examine the way protests are handled was rejected by
the Justice Minister.
Denny Larson pointed out:
“Had Shell chosen
the right location for their pipeline and refinery, they would have
full community support and this struggle would not exist.”
people remarked that if the Government had chosen to spend €10 million
on working out a solution to the situation in Rossport, a compromise
would certainly have been reached by now.