PETITION?Renowned broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne is one of the signatories calling for an independent inquiry into policing of the Corrib protests.
Watchdog finalises investigation into Belmullet garda booze allegations
Petition for independent inquiry
THE Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has confirmed to The Mayo News it is finalising its report about allegations by a former Shell contractor that Belmullet gardaí were given booze bribes. The allegations by services company, OSSL, have been reported in local, national and international media and were the subject of an internal inquiry by Shell and two Garda investigations.
Mr Desmond Kane, of OSSL, has claimed his company was instructed by Shell personnel to deliver a large amount of alcohol to Belmullet Garda Station before Christmas 2007. Shell has rejected the claim. However, Mr Kane says that, because of a dispute with the company, he was never paid for this delivery. He says he did get paid for earlier, smaller booze deliveries and other ‘sweeteners’ to local people.
Last August, a senior garda was appointed to examine the allegations. Supt Thomas Murphy referred his findings to GSOC, which subsequently appointed investigator Mr Johan Groenewald.
Meanwhile, a call has been made by 37 signatories – including Garda whistleblower John Wilson, social justice campaigner Father Peter McVerry and journalist Vincent Browne – for an independent inquiry into policing of the Corrib protests.
The petition, which was published last month, was read by actor Donal O’Kelly at an Airing Erris seminar held in Sean Scoil Carrateigue over the weekend. The seminar series has examined media coverage and policing of the Corrib controversy.
Petition signatories also include campaign and community groups, Pobal Chill Chomáin, Shell to Sea and the Rossport Solidarity Camp, as well as Afri and a number of academics from UCD and NUI Maynooth. All of Mayo’s Sinn Féin councillors are petitioners, as well as recently elected Independent MEP, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan.
The signatories state that since Corrib is ‘one of the longest running police operations in the history of the Irish state and has drawn critical attention from national and international human rights organisations since 2006 over the alleged violence and intimidation used by Gardaí against campaigners’, it should be included in any government-commissioned inquiry into policing.
They note that in 2007 campaigners had submitted complaints against gardaí to the newly established Garda watchdog but that out of 111 submitted between May 2007 and November 2009, 78 were deemed admissible and only seven were sent to the DPP.
The DPP rejected prosecution in all seven cases.
Garda operations at Shell sites in north-west Mayo have been significantly scaled back for some time, with the last section of construction work – the development of a subsea tunnel at Sruwaddacon Bay – now complete.
THE late campaigner, Gerry Conlon, who died recently, had made a provisional commitment to participate in this Airing Erris seminar. His death, as well as that of the late writer, Dermot Healy, was marked at Sunday’s seminar.
Former Irish Independent journalist Gemma O’Doherty, who reported on the controversy surrounding then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and the wiping of penalty points, spoke at the event. She spoke alongside former UN Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday; Garda whistleblower John Wilson; actress, writer, playwright and peace-activist Margaretta D’Arcy; and local farmer Willie Corduff, who was hospitalised in 2009 after a protest at the landfall site at Glengad.
Ms O’Doherty told the seminar that the main purpose of good journalism was to hold power to account, but there were still sections of the Irish media ‘shamelessly trying to blacken whistleblowers’.
The ‘disgraceful’ reporting of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission bugging controversy was an example of this, she said.
Some journalists had forgotten that their role was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” she added.
Former gardaí Benny McCabe and John Wilson, along with Rossport farmer Willie Corduff, appealed to members of the Garda Síochána who had been assigned to police the Corrib gas project to speak about what had occurred there.