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Press alert: Judge throws out charges against 19 protestors

Press alert
Issued by Shell to Sea
Thursday, 25th March, 2010
For immediate release


-- Rally for jailed fisherman Pat O'Donnell at Castlerea Prison, Sat 27th March, 3.30pm --

A judge has dismissed charges against all 19 people who were before a court in Mayo today for resisting Shell's experimental high-pressure pipeline and inland refinery.

"This result clearly shows that Gardai used arbitrary arrest to remove peaceful campaigners and intern them during the visit of Shell's pipe-laying ship last summer," Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington said.

“Here again is overwhelming evidence that the State is attempting to criminalise local campaigners for their opposition to Shell's inland refinery and ultra-high-pressure raw gas pipeline. This was a de facto internment in the service of a profit-making corporation.”

A special sitting of Belmullet District Court was convened this week to deal with the large number of prosecutions (27 in total) taken against protestors relating to a period last summer when Shell was laying a crucial section of its controversial Corrib gas pipeline close the shore.

In June 2009 some 300 Gardai, 200 private security, two Navy gunboats and an Air Corps aircraft were deployed to prevent protests against pipe-laying ship the Solitaire. Numerous campaigners were imprisoned without bail on minor charges, charges that Judge Gerard Haughton has now dismissed. The only conviction obtained by the State this week arose from an incident at earlier court proceedings. In this case, the judge admitted during his ruling that Gardai gave contradictory evidence.

Also interned during that period was popular local fisherman and Shell to Sea campaigner Pat O’Donnell (52). Mr O'Donnell is now approaching his 50th day in Castlerea Prison. A national protest outside the prison will take place on Saturday 27th March at 3.30pm to highlight the unjust treatment of Mr O’Donnell.

Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said: “Last November, An Bord Pleanala vindicated the stance of the local community when it found that up to half of Shell's proposed experimental onshore pipeline route was ‘unacceptable’ on safety grounds. Yet these same campaigners are being harassed and intimidated by Gardaí, accused of breaches of public order and assault, and are being given sentences not normally seen for such minor offences.”



* Maura Harrington 

* Terence Conway 


Shell to Sea is a national campaign with active groups based across Ireland. The Shell to Sea campaign has three main aims. 1) To renegotiate the terms of the Great Oil and Gas Giveaway, which sees Ireland’s 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent* off the West Coast go directly to the oil companies, with the Irish State retaining a 0% share, no energy security of supply and only 25% tax on profits against which all costs can be deducted. 2) To have the Corrib gasfield exploited in a safe way that will not expose the local community in Erris to unnecessary health and safety risks. 3) To seek justice for the human rights abuses suffered by Shell to Sea campaigners due to their opposition to Shell’s proposed inland refinery. *This figure is based on the estimate, issued by the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) in 2006, that the amount of gas and oil in the Rockall and Porcupine basins, off Ireland’s west coast, is 10 BBOE (billion barrels of oil equivalent). Based on the average price of a barrel of oil for 2009 of $60, this works out at $600 billion, or €420 billion. This does not take account of further oil and gas reserves off Ireland’s south coast or inland.
The total volume of oil and gas which rightfully belongs to Ireland could be significantly higher. Also, as the global price of oil rises in the coming years, the value of these Irish natural resources will rise further.