19 Shell to Sea campaigners facing 80 charges in special sitting of Belmullet court today


On Monday February 20th the Belmullet courthouse in Co. Mayo will be full of campaigners opposing the Corrib Gas Project. Nineteen people are facing 80 charges between them for civil disobedience, and this week has been set aside as a special sitting for the campaigners.

This week will be extremely significant in determining how the state deals with peaceful protest. Anyone who is concerned with the current 'state of affairs' in terms of the bank and developer bailout and resulting austerity, fracking, household tax, and other issues which have and will result in civil disobedience should watch the proceedings with interest.

From the sheer amount of charges it is clear that the Gardaí are trying to quash the protests which have been peaceful for the last ten years by coming down heavily on people.

Some background: The cases being dealt with this week are campaigners who have been arrested mostly for blocking the roads, stopping Shell's haulage and halting work. These protests happened between March 2011 and February 2012. Blockading was carried out by campaigners congregating in large groups at Shell's site entrances, by walking along the roads or by locking themselves to concrete barrels.

IRMS, Shell's private security company, has been documented blocking roads, assaulting and detaining people on the public roads (where they have no jurisdiction). A private security person has no more right to use force or detain members of the public in a public place than protesters have to assault or detain Shell workers. This selective application of the law shows where the state stands in supporting multinational corporations over its people.

Though most people who are up in court this week are facing double charges of Section 8 & 9 of the Public Order Act, a small number of people have been heavily targeted and are facing up to 14 charges. Gardaí have chosen certain individuals to target and make an example of in order to intimidate people from taking action against the Corrib Gas Project. These individuals have done nothing out of the ordinary, and are being persecuted for the same peaceful protesting that hundreds have taken part in over the past year.

As local resident and Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway (who is facing charges this week for blocking the road) explained earlier in the week, supporters of the local community are being targeted in an effort to further isolate the people of Erris. The community here has been abandoned time and time again by politicians, An Bord Pleanála and The State, and now those who have been living and working in solidarity with the community are being criminalised and intimidated.

In the last special sitting to deal with campaigners against Corrib, 24 of 27 defendants were acquitted. Stay tuned at www.shelltosea.com to see how the week unfolds. Check twitter on the Shell to Sea website or stay tuned for court reports.

WORDS: J Bender - Rossport Solidarity Camp


News release: Nineteen on trial for blocking Shell’s Corrib gas project
News release - Issued by Mayo Shell to Sea

- Campaigners face 80 charges in special court sitting over civil disobedience in Co. Mayo -

At 10.30am this Monday 20th of February nineteen campaigners will arrive at Belmullet District Court to face 80 charges arising from protests against Shell’s Corrib Gas Project in Co. Mayo. This unprecedented volume of civil disobedience charges is all scheduled to be dealt with within one week.

The protests in question took place between March 2011 and February 2012 and involve protestors temporarily blocking Shell haulage trucks. Blockading was carried out by campaigners congregating in large groups at Shell's site entrances, by walking on roads or by locking themselves to concrete barrels.

Mayo Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway - one of the campaigners due to appear before the court for blockading Shell haulage - said, “Shell and their private security company IRMS have assaulted and detained people openly on our local roads. Peaceful campaigners are now on trial for blocking Shell trucks, while IRMS face no charges. This is a clear indication of the corruption at the heart of the Corrib Gas project.”

He continued, “The defendants on trial are among thousands who have pledged their solidarity with our campaign. They have stood with us to oppose the safety risks and environmental destruction inherent in the flawed Corrib gas Project, not to mention the economic treason regarding the giveaway of our oil and gas resources.”

Mr. Conway concluded, ”We have witnessed a Garda policy of not arresting local people or not prosecuting local people. Instead Gardaí have been arresting and prosecuting our supporters. This policy is an attempt to deter support and isolate our community.