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Erris fishermen call for release of protester

News
Fishermen call for ‘The Chief’s’ release


Áine Ryan

THE ERRIS Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA) has called on the Governor of Castlerea Prison to release one of its founding members, leading Corrib gas protestor, Pat O’Donnell.
O’Donnell, known locally as The Chief, has now spent 90 days in jail for threatening behaviour towards a garda, and willful obstruction of a peace officer. Judge Raymond Groarke imposed at seven-month sentence in Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court last February.
Seen by The Mayo News, the letter to Governor Martin Reilly states that: “Patrick O’Donnell is a founder member of our organisation and is still a member in good standing. He has worked with us constructively since our inauguration in the year 2000. We are very sorry that he is incarcerated during the now operational fishing season, which is very short and very much weather dependent.”
It continues: “At the recent fishing exhibition (Fishing Expo 2010), held in Galway in February 2010, hundreds of Irish fishermen signed a petition in support of Patrick, in his stance to express his rights as a fisherman and his own beliefs.”
While stressing the organisation does not ‘condone any breaches of the law or any attacks on our law enforcing agencies’, the letter notes that ‘as permanent residents of Erris, we are daily in tune with the totality of what has come to be known as the Corrib Gas Saga.
“We are conscious of the fact that our friends and neighbours, who on occasion may get pushed beyond, even their own norms, are motivated by a sense of loyalty and dedication to the welfare of family, friends and country,” it continues
“Ours is a bigger and clearer picture of the situation than that generated by the presentation of selected facts in a court of law,” the letter adds.
Sent on April 15 last, it is signed by EIFA Cathaoirleach, Éamonn Ó Duibhir, Rúnaí, Eamon Dixon and Cisteoir, Melvin Tighe.

Four Ministers attend Forum
FOUR Government ministers, attending the Community Forum for Development in North West Mayo, were also addressed about Pat O’Donnell’s jailing, in Belmullet over the weekend.
Bellanaboy resident, Ms Jacinta Healy, told the ministers that: “While he may have lost the run of himself, it was with good reason, as the Shell project had an awful impact on people.”
Ms Healy, whose husband works at the terminal, said An Bord Pleanála’s recent ruling that up to half the modified route was unacceptable on safety grounds had further exacerbated fears among residents living near the site of the terminal.
The meeting was attended by Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, Minster for Social Protection, Éamon Ó Cuív, and Junior Labour Affairs Minster, Pat O’Donnell.
The meeting was briefly disrupted by Shell to Sea protestor, Maura Harrington, who used a loud-hailer to highlight issues.
After reconvening,  Corrib Operations Manager, Mark Carrigy, addressed the forum and confirmed the new route application will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála by the end of this month.
Shell also outlined various community spending initiatives, while newly-appointed Mayo County Manager, Peter Hynes, outlined progress on infrastructural improvements.
Since its establishment, the forum has been boycotted by community groups, Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile because of ‘its narrow terms of reference’.

GAA sponsorship
IN YET another twist, Pobal Chill Chomáin has written to all 32 County Boards of the GAA to complain about Shell’s sponsorship of the upcoming Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta 2010, due to take place in Erris over the June Bank Holiday weekend.  The letter cites the founding principles of the GAA,which extol parish and pride of place.