éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson has condemned the jailing of a prominent Mayo Shell to Sea campaigner and vowed that the party would continue to support the Rossport community in its fight against the notorious oil giant.
On February 11, local fisherman Pat ‘The Chief’ O’Donnell received a seven month prison sentence at Castlebar Circuit Court. The sentence relates to two separate incidents in September 2008 during the course of a cavalcade that was organised in support of Mayo woman Maura Harrington, who was on hunger-strike at the time.
Local Gardaí, who had followed the cavalcade as part of an ongoing campaign of harassment against local activists, alleged that Pat O’Donnell and a number of others engaged in threatening and abusive behaviour and a breach of the peace. Despite using video surveillance to monitor the cavalcade, the Gardaí could produce no evidence to back up their claims, nor was there any damage to the Garda car that O’Donnell and others were alleged to have attacked.
Astonishingly, the Gardaí in question claimed that they were in fear for their lives and compared the incident to the 1988 funeral of IRA volunteer Caoimhghín Mac Brádaigh in Belfast, which was attacked by two undercover British soldiers. Local Garda Aidan Gill blubbered in court: “They were abusive and shouting ‘get out you bastards’ and were banging on the car. It was a terrifying, frightening experience which lasted for about five minutes but it felt like an eternity.”
Notwithstanding their apparent terror, the Gardaí were still able to single out Pat O’Donnell from a crowd of over 60 people.
The jailing of O’Donnell follows a, by now, all too familiar pattern in which the Twenty-Six County state has sought to criminalise those willing to stand up to the corporate might of Shell Oil. Other prominent Shell to Sea campaigners, such as Maura Harrington, have been regularly harassed, beaten and hauled before the courts on spurious charges as the state does all in its power to facilitate Shell.
Harrington was brought before the courts again this week and given a one-year driving ban. While the state deems it a crime to defend your community and to highlight the fact that €420 billion [£365 billion] worth of oil and gas has been given away to private companies, the bankers and developers who brought the economy to its knees are free to roam the streets waiting for their next opportunity to mug the Irish people.
Paying tribute to Pat O’Donnell, éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson said: “Pat O’Donnell has been a stalwart defender of his community’s right to live in safety. He has paid a heavy price for his refusal to be bought off by Shell. Last June, masked men held Pat and his crew man Martin McDonnell at gunpoint and sank his boat and now he is facing a seven month prison sentence on trumped up charges. It is people like Pat who continue to provide an inspiration to those of us campaigning for people and communities to be put before private profit.”
Leeson continued: “The stance taken by the community in Rossport was vindicated last December when An Bord Pleanála ruled that the proposed route of Shell’s high pressure gas pipeline risked the lives of those living in close proximity to it. Yet those who fought this battle and brought the issue to national and international prominence are the ones to be imprisoned. Pat should be released from prison immediately and Shell’s project in Mayo abandoned once and for all. The community in Rossport have a right to live in peace and safety and the people of Ireland and not Shell have the right to benefit from the country’s oil and gas resources.”
Please write letters of support to Pat O’Donnell, c/o Castlereagh Prison, County Roscommon.