Two former suppliers to the Corrib gas project told a jury they supplied UK£25,000-worth of alcohol to gardaí in 2007 on behalf of Shell E&P Ireland.
The allegations were made by Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney, co-owners of OSSL, which had previously supplied personal protective equipment for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo. Both claimed that a person from Shell E&P Ireland asked them to buy alcohol in Northern Ireland and store it in a container at the back of their premises in Bangor Erris.
The two men’s claims were made at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court last Thursday during the trial of Gerry Bourke and Liam Heffernan, who were charged with violent disorder following a protest in a shell compound in Aughoose, Pollathomas. Mr Bourke and Mr Heffernan were later found not guilty by the jury.
Under oath, Mr Neil Rooney claimed that the first delivery of alcohol to Belmullet Garda Station was made in 2005, and that in 2007, he was asked by Conor Byrne, a Senior Pipeline Engineer with Shell, to make a large delivery.
Mr Rooney, from Downpatrick, Co Down, said he went to the north and bought £7,000 worth of alcohol. When Mr Byrne saw the amount of alcohol, Mr Rooney claimed he was told there were 300 gardaí in Erris and to get more. He said he bought another £18,000 worth of alcohol.
When asked by Mr Brendan Nix, SC for Mr Bourke, what happened to the alcohol, he said he personally delivered two thirds of it to Belmullet Garda Station and he named the gardaí who he gave the alcohol to. The rest, he said, was to be delivered to the Garda Sub Aqua Unit.
Mr Rooney also claimed he was a witness to a protest at Pollathomas pier on June 11, 2007, when he was delivering a portacabin. He described the day as ‘the worst day of my life’. Protesters were climbing on his machinery, and Mr Rooney claimed that Supt Joe Gannon, who was in charge of policing, said to him: ‘I want to drive the f**kers [protesters] into the sea.’
The jury was told that Mr Rooney made a statement about the incident to Terry Nolan, the then CEO of Shell E&P Ireland, in Shell’s offices in Bangor Erris.
“He wrote the statement and I signed it. I was accurate and truthful in the statement,” he said.
However, Mr Rooney claims that on September 21, 2007, he was in Dublin airport when he received a call from Mr Nolan, who told him that he needed to change the statement.
He claimed that Mr Nolan said the Gardaí authorities would ‘nail Joe Gannon to the cross’ for what he had said about the protesters, and that ‘he is our man, who needs protecting at all costs’.
Mr Rooney said that he refused to comply, and that his company’s relationship with Shell ‘deteriorated rapidly’ afterwards.
Desmond Kane, a native of Glasgow said OSSL was set up in 2000 in Bangor Erris to supply safety equipment for the Corrib gas project. In 2005 and 2006, he said requests were made by Shell to acquire ‘modest amounts of alcohol’, which was to be stored at their office in Bangor Erris in a container for Shell to have and distribute.
Mr Kane claimed that the first consignment of alcohol brought from Northern Ireland was bought in the first week in December 2007, but it was not enough and they were told to get more.
He said he was asked to bring a third of the alcohol to Athlone Garda Station but was later changed to a garage on the Athlone bypass. He said he was met by a man and they off-loaded the alcohol.
Investigation a ‘joke’
Last year, a Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) investigation into allegations found ‘[no] evidence of the purchase or delivery of alcohol to Garda stations, nor of any misconduct of Garda members’.
Supt Thomas Murphy was also appointed to investigate the allegations, and Mr Kane told the jury that both he and Mr Rooney met him in a hotel in Tallaght and spoke to him for a number of hours.
Mr Kane also claimed he met with Johan Groenewald, an official from GSOC, who investigated the allegations. He claimed Mr Groenewald told him the investigation was ‘a f***ing joke’.
Mr Kane said they fell out with Shell as a result, and that the refusal to change the statement had ‘cost us our livelihood’. He said all deliveries to Belmullet Garda Station were done in unmarked vehicles, and the receipts for the alcohol were destroyed.
Patrick Reynolds (prosecuting BL) chose not to cross-examine Mr Kane and Mr Rooney’s evidence, as he deemed it irrelevant to the case. Judge Petria McDonnell ordered the jury to disregard the evidence when deliberating on their verdicts.
In a statement to The Mayo News regarding the allegations made by Mr Kane and Mr Rooney in court, Shell stated that there was no substance to the allegations.
“These allegations have been ongoing since 2010. Over the last five years Shell has taken the allegations very seriously. Three investigations, both internal and external have taken place. Shell welcomes the findings of the investigations by An Garda Síochána and GSOC, which concluded that that there was no substance to the allegations,” the statement read.