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'No prosecution' over sinking of boat

Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

GARDAÍ IN north Mayo have said they are no longer investigating the sinking of a boat owned by a shellfish company director and Shell to Sea supporter off Erris Head last June.

Supt Michael Larkin of Belmullet Garda station said yesterday that the sinking of the 12m Iona Isle on June 11th last had been “fully and thoroughly investigated”.

Supt Larkin confirmed that the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that “no prosecution be brought”.

Owner Pat O’Donnell had said that the vessel was boarded by four masked men, and he and a crewman were held in the wheelhouse. The vessel sank after both men had taken to a life raft, and had to be rescued. The vessel was located by Garda and Naval divers three months ago, but was not salvaged.

At the time of the sinking, a number of politicians, including Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, Labour Party president Michael D Higgins and Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe had called for investigations.

The Marine Casualty Investigation Board said it would not be inquiring into an event which was “not accidental”, and the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association described the sinking as a “sinister turn of events”.

Shell E&P Ireland issued a statement in which it rejected “the allegation that people employed on the Corrib gas project were involved in any way”.

Mr O’Donnell said his insurers would not cover the loss as it as defined as an “act of terrorism”.

On June 25th, he and his son Jonathan were arrested in Broadhaven Bay over alleged public order offences in advance of the arrival of the Corrib gas offshore pipelaying ship, Solitaire.

Pat O’Donnell, who received a State award in 1997 for his role in the Belderrig cave rescue, had also been arrested in 2008 on two occasions during attempts to complete offshore pipelaying.

Mr O’Donnell and his son have refused compensation offers from Shell to remove gear, due to their concern about the impact of the Corrib gas refinery discharge pipe on the marine environment and on their shellfish business. In a related development, the State has also withdrawn charges against Jonathan O’Donnell, following his arrest on June 25th.

No reason was given, and his solicitor Alan Gannon has written to the Garda to ask if the DPP’s advice was sought at the time of the detention.

Mr O’Donnell’s boat, and that of his father, were also detained by the Garda at that time under the Maritime Safety Act, just hours before the arrival of the Solitaire back in Broadhaven Bay.

Supt Larkin said yesterday the Garda investigation into an alleged assault on Rossport farmer Willie Corduff at Glengad last April was “almost complete”. Mr Corduff was hospitalised overnight after the incident.