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Shell to Sea goes to UN over policing of gas dispute

By: 
Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

Environmental group makes the submission after Alan Shatter declines to hold independent inquiry

Shell to Sea has appealed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to raise the issue of policing the Corrib gas dispute with the Government.

The Mayo-based environmental group says it has made the submission to the UNHCR’s office, following Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s confirmation in the Dáil that he did “not see a necessity” for an independent inquiry into policing in North Mayo.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Margaret Sekaggya had recommended that the Government should “investigate all allegations and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib gas dispute in a prompt and impartial manner”.

In a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council early last year, Ms Sekaggya also advised that the Government permit the Garda Ombudsman to conduct an “examination of the practices, policies and procedures of the police in the context of the Corrib gas dispute” and enact “overarching legislation to protect whistle-blowers in all sectors of activity, ensuring that it complies fully with the United Nations Convention against Corruption”.

Her recommendations on the Corrib gas project were echoed in March of this year by South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday, along with a number of signatories to an appeal by peace and justice group Afri.

The Front Line Defenders human rights organisation also said that policing of the Corrib gas dispute should be included in “any Government inquiry” into Garda accountability.

In a written response to Independent Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan on April 1st, Mr Shatter said it was “deeply regrettable” that “so much Garda resources have to be tied up” in the policing of protest activity in north Mayo.

Mr Shatter said that between 2011 and 2013, 38 defendants were brought before the courts for “public order offences, criminal damage and assault on gardaí”, and the total cost of policing the protests had reached over €16 million, excluding basic salaries of gardaí.

“While the Garda role in policing the Corrib protests has given rise to a number of complaints being made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, it should be borne in mind that the majority of these were either found to be inadmissible or not to disclose wrongdoing on the part of the members of the force complained about,”Mr Shatter said.

“Given these circumstances I do not see a necessity for an independent inquiry into the policing operation in north County Mayo,” he said in his response.

In its submission to the UNHCR, Shell to Sea says that “the current situation in Mayo is that each allegation of police malpractice is investigated separately either by police officers from other areas or by a wholly inadequate Ombudsman’s office, an office which successive Ministers for Justice have repeatedly restrained from conducting a full investigation of Corrib policing”.

“In the local court of justice judges issue convictions based on Garda statements that are contradicted by their own video evidence, only to be successfully appealed in higher courts months or even years later at great expense and personal cost to those involved,”it says.

Posted Date: 
1 May 2014