Wednesday (February 13) saw the conviction of three natural resources activists in Belmullet district court, county Mayo.
éirígí’s Dominic McGlinchey and Rab Jackson were found guilty, along with Cathal Larkin, of blocking the free movement of traffic on a public thoroughfare. The charge related to the trio’s participation in a series of ‘sit-down’ protests outside of Shell’s controversial gas refinery site in Bellanaboy, county Mayo on November 9 2007.
Upon conviction, all three were given the probation act and directed to contribute various sums, totalling 700 euro, to the Ballyglass lifeboat charity.
However, the presiding judge, Mary Devins, deferred decision for all three men on a more serious charge of obstructing the Gardaí in the course of their duty. Instead, she initiated a ‘consultative case stated’ to refer the matter to the High Court in Dublin for clarification on Section 19 (3) and 19 (4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Devins felt that it was unclear if this legislator had intended for this legislation to be used in public order situations such as the one that occurred in Bellanaboy.
Given the backlog of cases in front of the High Court, it may well be up to 18 months before the requested clarification is returned, during which time the accused will have no closure on the case.
With regard to both charges, Devins noted a number of points, including the apparent selectivity of only three individuals facing charges from a protest that the Gardaí themselves estimated to be made up of between 60 and 150 people. She also commented on the fact that while each of three Garda witnesses “noticed” the alleged actions of each of the three accused, none of these same witnesses were able to state with any certainty what the other 60 to 150 protesters were doing on the day.
Speaking outside the court, éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said that any further delays in concluding the case would detrimentally impact upon the three men and their families.
“All three have had to travel long distances over the last number of months to attend the court sittings, for both Dominic and Rab this has resulted in significant amounts of time away from their young families. “They should not be inconvenienced anymore than they already have been by blatant and well-documented Garda incompetence.
“It is a sad indictment on the system of government and law in the Twenty-Six Counties that three men who attended a peaceful protest, at the invitation of the local community, have been dragged through the courts as a result.
“Meanwhile, the real criminals in this case – Shell Oil – are free to rob our natural resources without the bat of an eyelid in establishment circles.”
Brian concluded: “I would like to take this opportunity to commend Dominic, Rab and Cathal. Perseverance from people like them has insured that the Bellanaboy community and the wider Shell to Sea campaign still has a real chance of winning the battle for local consent and public control of our resources.”
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