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Protest Against Jailings at Ministers’ Corrib Gas Forum

A Shell to Sea protest took place this afternoon at the 'North-West Development Forum', held in Belmullet Co Mayo. While previous protests have highlighted that the narrow terms of reference of the forum exclude real debate on the Corrib Gas Project, today’s message was one of solidarity with imprisoned campaigners Pat O’Donnell and Niall Harnett. This was the first such forum since An Bord Pleanála deemed that over half of Shell’s proposed Corrib Gas Pipeline was unacceptable on health and safety grounds in February.


Shortly after the opening of the forum, Maura Harrington - with the use of a loud hailer - reminded those present of the length of time spent in Castlerea prison so far by Mr. O’ Donnell and Mr. Harnett – 88 and 18 days respectively.  Other campaigners displayed banners reading 'Pat the Chief O’Donnell Hero and friend - Free The Chief!' and 'Why Won't You talk about Health & Safety, the Environment, or Natural Resources?' Another Banner read '€540,000,000,000 Worth of Gas Robbed – Nationalise Corrib Gas'.

 

After half an hour Chairman Joe Brosnan adjourned the forum for a short break. When the participants – including Ministers Eamon Ryan, Éamon Ó Cuív and Pat Carey – returned, they were read passages from the newly published “Breakdown in Trust: A report on the Corrib Gas Dispute” by Front Line - The International Organisation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. At this stage it had become evident that the campaigners would persist in broadening the forum’s terms of reference to the substantive issues of health & safety, natural resources and human rights. Mr Brosnan made a number of attempts to intervene but shortly afterwards closed the forum.

 

Speaking after the event Maura Harrington said: 'Pat O’Donnell and Niall Harnett are human rights defenders imprisoned for Shell’s convenience. Pat O’Donnell’s legal and traditional right to fish in Broadhaven Bay has been an massive hurdle for Shell’s offshore work. Last year his boat was sunk at sea, this year he is imprisoned. We will not allow this puppet forum to whitewash the Corrib Gas Project while our friends are in jail.'

 

Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway added: 'Earlier this year we were vindicated on health & safety grounds by An Board Pleanála, and now we have been recognised as human rights defenders by Front Line. It’s time for a total rethink of the State’s cosy relationship with the oil corporations and its hostile relationship to its human rights defenders.'

 

ENDS

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Terence Conway
Maura Harrington