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Protest at Mountjoy for Maura Harrington

Andrew - Dublin Shell to Sea

Dublin Shell to Sea organised a protest at Mountjoy prison last night after receiving the news that Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington had been arrested for non payment of fines and was on her way to the prison for the 5th time int two years. Some 40-50 people turned up on a few hours notice including a contingent from the Critical Mass cycle that was taking place.

In what is hardly a coincidence Shell have sent letters to residents of the local area, warning them that drilling works are about to start in Sruwaddacon Estuary. It is a feature of the campaign that Gardai often find reasons to arrest prominent campaigners whenever Shell needs to start work.

Terence Conway a Shell to Sea spokesperson from the area commented that the “jailing is purely and simply timed to help Shell to undertake their destructive drilling in Sruwaddacon. The dangers we've seen very clearly with the Deepwater Horizon spill, as well as the giveaway of Ireland's natural resources, are the reasons why three campaigners are now stuck in prison. Maura Harrington has been a resolute opponent to Shell, and it is clear to everyone in this area that the Gardai have gone out of their way to persecute her because she has been such an effective campaigner.”

A picket was maintained at the front gates of the prison for over an hour, watched from across the road by a couple of car loads of secret police. Between September 2006 and December 2009 some 12.6 million euro was spent suppressing protest in Erris on police overtime and expenses alone (ie excluding the normal wages).

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If it is true that Maura Harrington is in jail for non payment of fines it flies in the face of assertions made last month by Minister Dermot Ahern who said the Fines Bill 2009 was about to go into law. He declared again and again that the era of jail for non payment was well and truly at an end.

Then in the last weeks it was reported that up to 900 inmates had been fast tracked to release because the number of people in prison was away over the limit. Not Pat o Donnell and Niaill Hartnett and instead an increase of one by the addition of Maura Harrington. Who is running the country - the lack of cohesion in policy is away beyond embarrasement.