A MAJOR human rights report, into the controversial Corrib gas project, has recommended that gardaí, from outside County Mayo, re-investigate an assault, a year ago at Glengad, on Rossport farmer, Willie Corduff, The Mayo News can reveal.
The report, which is to be published today (Tuesday), states there ‘are serious questions about the quality of the investigation into Mr Corduff’s allegations’.
Crucially, the recommendation is substantiated by Mr Corduff’s medical records, accessed through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, as well as the professional opinion of an expert medical doctor, Dr John Good, who concludes the 55-year-old was assaulted. Dr Good was asked by the author to provide his opinion, based on medical records.
Entitled a ‘Breakdown of Trust: Report on the Corrib Gas Dispute’, the study was carried out by leading barrister, Brian Barrington and commissioned by NGO (Non-Goevrnment Organsiation) and international group. Mr Barrington is a former Special Advisor to Seamus Mallon MP MLA and Mark Durkan MP MLA, in their roles as Deputy First Ministers in Northern Ireland.
In the report, Mr Barrington reveals that, contrary to statements made by a senior garda, and an IRMS (Integrated Risk Management Services) security guard on duty at Shell’s Glengad compound, Mr Corduff neither walked to the ambulance on the night of April 23, 2009, nor was he fully conscious at the time.
Moreover, he cites the fact that Mr Peter Murtagh, Deputy Editor of The Irish Times, in an opinion piece critical of the protests, reveals that Shell sources had confirmed to him that Mr Corduff ‘was grabbed by security men, restrained and taken to hospital by an ambulance they called’. This version, Barrington argues, also contradicts another assertion by the IRMS security guard that ‘not a finger was laid on’ Mr Corduff.
Mr Corduff has consistently claimed he was assaulted, beaten and pinned to the ground by a group of masked men on the night in question, after he emerged from under a lorry, where he had been involved in a protest since the morning before, at the Glengad landfall site for the pipeline.
Mr Barrington writes that a senior garda said on local radio that Mr Corduff ‘was escorted from the site and spoke to Gardaí and it was decided in the best interests that he be transferred to a hospital after he had complained of feeling unwell’.
“This was clearly misleading. He was not ‘escorted from the site’. He was taken away by ambulance on a spinal board and cervical collar on a stretcher. Two gardaí were present when he was taken away.”
However, Mr Barrington stresses that he is not implying that the garda intended to mislead when he made his remarks. But, Barrington argues, he should have corrected himself subsequently.
He continues: “IRMS stated to this author that Mr Corduff was conscious that night upon being come upon. This author concludes that this was not accurate. He was semi-conscious. Not only is the claim that he was conscious contradicted by the witness statements from protestors, it is also contradicted by what an IRMS security staff member told ambulance control that night.”
He adds: “IRMS also stated to this author that Mr Corduff was not assaulted, that he simply sat down and that not a finger was laid upon him. This author concludes that, in fact, he was set upon and kicked. Mr Corduff’s medical records diagnose him as having bruises from kicking.”
Referring to the Accident and Emergency reports, as well as Mayo General Hospital’s clinical notes, Dr Good states, in his contribution to the report, that the injuries – including loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting, pain in left lower jaw and lower ankle and right thigh and shoulder, as well as headache and tinnitus – ‘are totally consistent with a history of assault’.
The author also concludes there are serious questions about the quality of the investigation into Mr Corduff’s allegations. ‘In order to ensure public confidence’, he recommends that Mr Corduff’s complaint be re-investigated by Garda outside Mayo.
The Mayo News will afford a full right of reply to all those alluded to in this report, which was embargoed until today, Tuesday, April 27.
SIGNIFICANTLY, the substantial study also recommends that Shell intensify its existing efforts to ensure regulatory compliance, particularly in light of the contempt of court case taken by local resident Ms Monica Muller regarding unauthorised works carried out by its agents, RPS, on commonage lands in Rossport.
Mr Barrington notes that gardaí have facilitated and upheld the rights of workers to go to their workplace at Bellanaboy but at the same time have claimed ignorance of a clearly sign-posted court order on the Rossport commonage.
He also recommends that the necessary resources be made available to gardaí to assess the legality of works by Shell. Mr Barrington cites a standoff at Pollathomas pier on June 11, 2007, where the garda-in-charge refused to speak to the residents’ solicitor.
In relation to the conflict between fisherman, Pat O’Donnell and Shell over primacy of rights regarding fishing in the lead-up to the arrival of pipe-laying vessel The Solitaire, the author notes that the ‘failure to put in place appropriate legislation by June 2009 was particularly regrettable’ in light of related events.
The author also reveals that the Corrib gas dispute has been the single greatest cause of complaints to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC). He notes that in 2007 the GSOC sought to carry out a ‘policies and practises’ investigation into public order aspects of the Corrib conflict. But the then Minister for Justice vetoed it. Barrington recommends that this power of veto be repealed.
Front Line Defenders
‘Breakdown of Trust: Report on the Corrib Gas Dispute’, was commissioned by Front Line Defenders, an international foundation for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, based in Dublin.
The overall aim of the study was to examine whether those engaged in protests against the Corrib gas project ‘can be considered to be human rights defenders’ and ‘to consider any human rights issues’ in respect of the dispute.
Importantly, the report states that neither Front Line nor the author takes any positions on the safety of the proposed Corrib gas pipeline, or whether it should proceed through Rossport or along any other route.
Brian Barrington told The Mayo News that a unique aspect of the findings is that ‘there is a community of protesters without clear-cut leadership structures’.
“In view of the real questions raised as to the safety of the pipeline, and in view of the recent findings of An Bord Pleanála that its safety had not been demonstrated, the concerns of protesters cannot be disregarded as so irrational that human rights ought to be deemed not be engaged,” the report concludes.