As 19 campaigners go on trial in Mayo, William Hederman writes that the expensive policing of the Corrib gas project is facilitating a transfer of resources to private corporations. Those "outsiders" who protest in Mayo are doing Ireland a great service
Nineteen people are due before Belmullet District Court this week charged with 80 offences relating to civil disobedience and obstruction of Shell’s attempts to build an inland refinery and high-pressure pipeline in north Mayo. Civilians have been taking the law into their own hands: closing public roads and illegally detaining other civilians on those roads.
The two sentences in the above paragraph are connected, but not as closely as you might expect. The 19 accused are anti-Shell campaigners, but the civilians referred to in the second sentence are employees of IRMS, the private security company guarding Shell’s troubled project. Since the latest phase of the project began in the spring of 2011 – a 5km tunnel under Sruwaddacon Estuary – IRMS staff have been taking a very hands-on approach to guarding the tunnelling compound at Aughoose.
I have witnessed IRMS staff assaulting protesters, closing off sections of the public road and physically detaining protesters. All of this happens in full view of gardaí. It is illegal for private security guards to close roads and to physically manhandle people – they have no more right to do that than protesters do. To date, not one IRMS staff member has been charged in relation to this activity, despite the fact that local residents say they have made complaints about it at Belmullet Garda station, as well as to the Private Security Authority.
22 February 2012