THE jailing of Shell to Sea protesters serves no purpose according to an Erris councillor who said that the jailing of a local fisherman was indicative of the way the Corrib gas project has been handled.
Last week, fisherman Pat O’Donnell was jailed for seven months in Castlebar Circuit where Shell to Sea activists were branded ‘vigilantes’, ‘thugs’ and ‘bullies’ and were criticised for acting like a ‘secret police’ by the sentencing judge.
A number of Shell to Sea protesters appeared before the court where they appealed District Court convictions and sentences. While Mr O’Donnell was the only activists given a custodial sentence, prominent activist, Maura Harrington had her sentences adjourned for a year, while Niall Harnett was sentenced to 240 hours community service in lieu of six months imprisonment.
Judge Raymond Groarke was scathing in his comments about the activities of Shell to Sea saying they had a right to protest but not take the law into their own hands.
“People are entitled to as a civic right to make a protest against a perceived wrongdoing or unfairness which they see as abuse. No citizen is entitled to self appoint themselves as the enforcer or interpreters of the law,” he said.
Despite the judge’s comments, Maura Harrington said their protests were vindicated by An Bord Pleanala’s decision to reject the planned onshore pipeline and they would continue their campaign.
Sinn Féin councillor, Rose Conway-Walsh told The Mayo News that the jailing of Pat O’Donnell served no purpose and was indicative of the Corrib gas project. She said the type of protests which led to the court cases occurred when people’s concerns are not listened to.
“Putting protesters in jail will not bring a solution to these problems and at the end of the day people need to sit down and talk. The community want the project but in a safe and sustainable way and it is obvious that An Bord Pleanála does not have full confidence in it. Putting members of the community in jail is not the way forward and will not achieve anything in the long or short term,” she said.
Cllr Conway-Walsh also criticised the recent airing of the Paul Williams documentary on the Corrib gas dispute on TV3 which she said had done nothing but divide the community. She said she was asked to take part in the documentary because she was the ‘only provo candidate’ but refused to do so.
“Personally I am disgusted the programme has been nominated for an award. When I asked the producer why was he not interviewing the sitting four councilors and the other candidates, he said ‘well you are the only provo candidate’. Paul Williams makes huge amounts of money exploiting people’s suffering, he could not care less about the people of Erris or finding a solution to the Corrib Gas problems.”