Skip to main content

Shell contractor delivered three loads of booze to gardai

Áine Ryan - Sunday Times

THE contractor in a dispute with Shell over the delivery of a large consignment of alcohol to Belmullet garda station before Christmas 2007 now claims that the multinational oil giant also paid it to deliver more “modest” quantities of alcohol to the station in 2005 and 2006.

OSSL, the contractor on the Corrib gas project that Shell allegedly hired to make the deliveries, claims “the same pattern” occurred in 2005 and 2006, but “the delivery on both these occasions was modest”.

A senior garda in Mayo has been appointed to conduct a fresh “examination” of claims that gardai were given large quantities of alcohol by the company. Previous inquiries by gardai “found no evidence” to back up the allegations.

OSSL says it is owed over €43,000 by Shell for the transportation of €29,500 worth of alcohol from Northern Ireland to Co Mayo in December 2007.

The company alleges the bulk of the alcohol was delivered to the garda station and recieved by senior officers.  Shell said it carried out an internal inquiry and had found "no evidence" to support such claims.  It confirmed that a contractual dispute arose after it terminated OSSL's services in 2010. 

OSSL claims that, as well as the delivery of alcohol, the "accommodation services" included providing "a tennis court, cookers, television sets, agricultural equipment, school fees, home improvements, garden centre visits and forestry equipment" for the local community.

These gifts were delivered when the Corrib gas controversy was at its height.  They followed the release from prison of the Rossport Five in September 2005; the temporary suspension of works pending a government commissioned mediation process led by Peter Cassels, a former trade unionist, and the deployment in late 2006 of hundreds of gardai to manage the daily protests.  On one occasion, the campaign led to a baton charge, and violent clashes became common at the Shell project site at Bellanaboy, in isolated northwest Mayo.

In a bid to improve the profile of the project, and develop relations with the local community, Shell recruited John Egan, a former BBC journalist and Mayo native, in late 2005. James Laffey, the editor of the Western People, has confirmed that Egan sent him six bottles of wine before Christmas 2005 but that he had immediately returned them.

Two months later, in February 2006, Shell recruited on the Western People's most senior journalists, Christy Loftus.  Denise Horan, a former editor of The Mayo News, later joined Shell as a senior communications adviser.

In email sent in September 2012 to Julia Busby, Shell's lawyer, and copied to other Shell executives and senior gardai, Desmond Kane, OSSL co-owner, states: "Let me repeat, the 2005 alcohol is paid in part, we have no further claim on the outstanding balance.  The same applies to 2006.  2007 delivery is uninvoiced we waited for your instructions re the burial of this matter, such instruction never came despite many promises.  Please pay this outstanding invoice now to bring the matter to a close".

Shell said that a month earlier, on August 2, 2012, OSSL had signed a final settlement of all claims and contractual matters in the presence of its legal advisers.  Shell confirmed that three weeks later OSSL sent an invoice for the December 2007 alcohol deliveries.

Shell said last week that since August 2012, OSSL had bombarded some executives with hundreds of emails and held public demonstrations, some outside Belmullet garda station.  It has also engaged in a Facebook campaign.

"At the Royal Dutch Shell annual meeting in May 2013, a commitment was made for a senior Shell representative from outside Ireland to meet Mr. Kane of OSSL.  That meeting took place in early June 2013.  No new information was provided by Mr Kane and [Shell] remains satisfied that the contractual dispute between the two companies has been closed," Shell said.

At the last An Bord Pleanala hearing into the project, Tom McAndrew, a retired clinical psychologist, accused Shell of "manipulating the community in a shameless way in order to achieve their own ends".  McAndrew, who supported the project in principle, asked: "I wonder if, when all this is over, Shell will produce one last cheque to run the mediation courses necessary to heal this sundered community."


Posted Date: 
18 August 2013