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Police chiefs defend Corrib protest actions

Irish Examiner

Police chiefs tonight defended operations at the controversial Corrib gas project after a human rights body accused officers of acting unlawfully, failing to take protesters seriously and claimed a Superintendent misled the public.

Frontline called for the Garda Ombudsman to examine policing at the disputed site which it said has been the scene of great hostility towards the force.

The Department of Justice and a spokeswoman for Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said gardaí have faced difficult policing operations but always upheld people’s rights.

“The Gardai are tasked with preserving law and order and with ensuring that people can go about their lawful business, including access to their work place,” a spokesman for the Department said.

“They will continue to uphold that principle and defend the human rights of all involved.”

A spokeswoman for the Commissioner said the report would be examined in detail before specific issues would be addressed.

“The Commissioner would make it clear that he is very happy with the policing operation in what are very difficult circumstances,” she said.

“A lot of work has been done in ensuring that the human rights of everyone involved are protected.”

Frontline called for a human rights lawyer to be appointed to Corrib to review policing and for the Garda Ombudsman to examine the entire policing operation.

The report, compiled by barrister Brian Barrington, also found leading campaigner Willie Corduff had been assaulted even though no charges are being brought against security staff from I-RMS or gardaí.

The Garda Ombudsman has dealt with 111 complaints over policing but only seven files were compiled for the DPP and only one of those may lead to internal disciplinary action.

A spokesman for the Garda Ombudsman said: “It would not seem to us now, with over 100 complaints investigated, it would not seem appropriate to start our original examination at this time.

“It is entirely at the minister’s discretion.”

Jim Farrell, I-RMS director, said he was present at all times during Mr Corduff’s protest under the truck.

“On behalf of I-RMS, I would like to reject outright a central conclusion of this report, namely that Mr Willie Corduff was assaulted,” Mr Farrell said.

“I know it to be true that Mr Corduff was not assaulted.”

The security firm chief accused Frontline of making staggering omissions and suggested the report was disproportionate, naive and incomplete.

I-RMS called for Frontline to retract insinuations that it was involved in any assault on Mr Corduff and for the report to be amended to include the DPP’s decision.

Protest group Shell to Sea called for an end to work on Corrib while an independent body assesses the economic, environmental, safety and human rights impacts of the project.

Spokeswoman Maura Harrington said: “The Frontline Report is a truly awful reflection on policing, governance and regulation in Ireland today.”

Mr Barrington, who met gardaí, I-RMS and protesters over policing issues, said there was no evidence to suggest the protests had been taken over by republicans. He said, however, some protesters had republican connections with Sinn Féin, the Eirigí group.

He found that an inspection of fisherman Pat O’Donnell’s boat, which subsequently sank in mysterious circumstances, appeared unlawful.