Corrib gas campaigner convicted of careless driving and obstruction at Shell compound
Security guard admits local individual has been profiled
A well-known campaigner against the Corrib gas project has been convicted of careless driving and obstruction at a Shell compound.
John Monaghan of Sráid Merica, Beal an Mhuirthead, pleaded not guilty to the charges, relating to incidents at the Shell compound at Aughoose, Pullathomas on Decmber 1, 2011.
After a three-hour hearing at Belmullet District Court on Wednesday last, Judge Denis McLoughlin found Mr Monaghan guilty on both counts, fined him a total of €350 and disqualified him from driving for one year.
Edgars Prikna told the court that he is employed as a security guard for security agency IRMS and that he was working on the gate at Aughoose on the morning in question, along with four other security guards.
He said John Monaghan, whom he knew, came down the road at 10.40am and swung into the gateway without indicating. He said he tried to stop the van but was forced to move aside. The van ‘kept driving at me’, he said.
He said he was ‘afraid’ and felt that if he did not get out of the way, Monaghan would ‘probably drive over me’. He said Monaghan blocked the entrance.
John Monaghan, who was representing himself in court, asked Mr Prikna how he knew him. Mr Prikna replied that it was from IRMS’s information, adding that the company has ‘pictures of these lads’. Monaghan (who later described such profiles as ‘disturbing’) asked who in IRMS decides which people in the community should get profiled. Mr Prikna said he did not know.
Monaghan asked if the profiles came in the form of US Marine-type playing cards. Mr Prikna said ‘No’.
Radoslaw Rabenda told the court he was also working as a security guard for IRMS at the gate in Aughoose. He said he knew Monaghan from an incident in Glengad, saying that Monaghan had ‘make [sic] trouble on the construction site in Glengad’, later adding that Monaghan was fighting with him. John Monaghan said Mr Rabenda was mistaken, to which Mr Rabenda replied, “All of you are similar.”
Bribery allegations brought up
In relation to the incident at Aughoose, retired Garda Patrick O’Hora said he was on duty on the day in question and was called to the scene of Aughoose.
Monaghan told the garda he was at Aughoose ‘on business’. Garda O’Hora asked Monaghan to move his car back to allow a waiting vehicle access to the compound. He told the court that Monaghan moved to allow the vehicle to pass and then moved back to his original position.
He said John Monaghan drove away at 2.40pm when a vehicle was about to tow Monaghan’s Ford Transit Connect van away. He said Mr Monaghan drove ‘carelessly in reverse’ and that he had to move out of his way.
Mr Monaghan, representing himself, asked five garda witnesses if they had ‘ever knowingly been in receipt of gifts from Statoil or Shell E&P Ireland, or if they had ever engaged in the distribution of such gifts.
Each of the five gardaí rejected the allegations. Retired Garda O’Hora said he took ‘serious exception’ to the allegation, that he never ‘took or accepted bribes from anyone’ and that he served as a member of An Garda Síochána for over 30 years ‘without fear or favour’.
Purpose of Aughoose visit
Sergeant Dermot Butler also attended at the scene at Aughoose. He said he was struck on the leg by Monaghan’s van. He said he felt the only business John Monaghan had on the day in question was to block the entrance to a Shell site and that his van was not parked in a reasonable place to park a van.
Mr Monaghan said he sounded the horn to get the attention of someone inside the compound. Sergeant Butler said it was his opinion that Monaghan ‘sounded the horn to excite civilian people’ who had gathered at the scene and was ‘playing to the gallery’.
John Monaghan argued he was there ‘on business’ and that he had spoken to the Shell Community Liasion Officer who had sent him to Aughoose. He said efforts to request this individual attend court had been entirely unsuccessful.
Terence Conway, a witness for the defence, told the court that he and John Monaghan are both campaigners against the Corrib gas project, and that while he may have been recording the incident on the day in question, Mr Conway had no recollection of this and ‘must have’ deleted over the footage. He said he had not seen Mr Monaghan at any Shell protests in ‘six or seven years’.
In closing, Mr Monaghan said there was no evidence that he was asked to leave by Shell staff, and that it was not a garda matter, as it was not on the public road.
He criticised the CCTV footage produced in court, saying ‘large chunks’ were omitted, specifically asking why there was no footage of his approach to the entrance, which was the subject of a careless driving charge. He argued he had indicated to enter and was not driving carelessly.
He conceded he caused a ‘minor inconvenience’ to vehicles entering and exiting the compound but said he accommodated them by moving, and that this was not shown in the CCTV excerpts produced in court. He said he feels he is ‘one of the latest victims’ of efforts of An Garda Síochána in the Belmullet district to ‘criminalise’ local people who express vocal opposition to the current Corrib gas project.
Judge Denis McLoughlin said Monaghan’s version of events was ‘nothing short of incredulous’ and found him guilty on both charges. Recognisances were fixed for an appeal. Other charges against John Monaghan were adjourned until January 8 next to fix a date.