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Shell protester put 'life above private property'

Western People

A Dublin-based campaigner against the Corrib Gas project has told a court hearing in Belmullet that a desire to "protect life" prompted him to commit a number of public order offences.

Eoin Lawless, 10 Charlestown Drive, Finglas, Dublin 11, claimed he had reasonable excuse to climb onto the cab of a moving truck working on the project because he "put life above private property".  The defendant pleaded not guilty to charges of willful obstruction, failing to comply with a direction of a garda and breach of the peace on June 10 last.

But the defendant's statement to the court failed to impress Judge Seamus Huges who said Lawless's “belief in the cause” did not permit him to break the law.

Truck driver Michael Jordan told the court he was carrying large boulders from Barrett's quarry in Bangor Erris to the Shell landfall site at Glengad when he saw bollards pulled across the road at Pullathomas. He stopped his lorry and gardaí arrived, clearing the road and allowing him to proceed. However, further along the road he saw stones being dropped beside his vehicle and a hand banging on the window of his truck. He pulled up immediately and realised there was a man on the cab of his vehicle, which was now surrounded by protesters. Mr Jordan said he felt afraid and uncomfortable.

Another truck driver Sean Barrett, who was part of a convoy travelling to Glengad, said he saw Lawless jump on to the back of the moving truck and throw four large stones from the body of the vehicle.

Gardaí directed Lawless to get down from the lorry but he refused. The officers feared for the derendant's safety and three gardaí climed onto the cab of the lorry and removed Lawless. The defendant later broke through a garda cordon and ran across the road in front of moving traffic.

Eoin Lawless told the court that he believed the Corrib project was endangering life and the environment and he wanted to disrupt work to try to protect lives. He apologised for frightening Mr Jordan but said he did not regret his actions.

Judge Hughes said the defendant may truly believe in the cause, but he was not entitled to stop the free passage of vehicles and people.

However, the judge noted that Lawless was not abusive or obnoxious to the gardaí and deserved maximum mitigation.

He convicted the defendant on the charge of willful obstruction and breach of the peace but struck out the charge of failing to comply with a member of An Garda Síochána.

The judge offered Mr Lawless the chance to complete community service in lieu of fines but he refused the offer, saying he was already involved in a drugs programme in Dublin and “gave too much time and energy to the community”.

Judge Hughes imposed fines totalling €200. Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.