Eco-spy infiltrated Irish protests

Sat, Jan 15, 2011, 00:00

A BRITISH undercover police officer who infiltrated protest movements across Europe over seven years made several visits to Ireland, during which he spent time with objectors to the Corrib gas project in north Mayo and met protesters opposed to US military use of Shannon airport.

According to Irish activists, PC Mark Kennedy, a Metropolitan police officer who infiltrated several environmental and anti-capitalist campaigns in Britain and other countries after he adopted the fake identity of Mark Stone in 2003, also took part in the Dublin May Day protests in 2004. Several said he encouraged more confrontational tactics.

Kennedy spent several days in north Mayo in March 2006 and participated in a workshop for the Shell to Sea campaign. Former members of the Rossport solidarity camp, established after the jailing of the Rossport Five in 2005, recall that he advised on the merits of direct action. He also visited the home of one of the Rossport Five, Willie Corduff, with a group of British and Icelandic activists sympathetic to the campaign.

“It’s unfortunate that you take people in good faith,” Mary Corduff said yesterday. “What we would like to know is who he was working for while he was here?”

One former Rossport camp member, who did not want to be identified, said he remembered Kennedy participating in a direct confrontation with gardaí during the Dublin May Day demonstration in 2004.

“I remember him taking off his balaclava in the thick of it . . . which is something we never did,” the activist said.

This allegation was repeated by a Dublin-based activist with the Workers Solidarity Movement, who said Kennedy had stayed at his home twice.

The activist, who did not wish to be identified, said he had met Kennedy several times between 2004 and 2006, both in Ireland and at the G8 protests in Scotland in 2005. “He was very encouraging of the more militant end of direct action,” the activist said.

In an interview given to a Rossport camp member and published by Indymedia, Kennedy stressed it was “really important for campaigns not only in Ireland, in Mayo or in Iceland but also campaigns in Spain, in Italy [to] work together”.

“We need to network and we need to be working on these issues together, exchanging information and ways of doing things, and looking at the ways corporations are putting the pressure on us and sharing that information so that we can go forward and win our struggles,” he said.

“In the future, when things happen, we can carry on and have a better idea of how to protest against these corporations.”

Kennedy visited the gas terminal site at Ballinaboy, including the protest “trailer”. At the time, work by Shell EP Ireland on the terminal had been suspended.

One activist said he met Kennedy at a protest over former US president George Bush’s attendance at the EU-US summit at Dromoland Castle in June 2004.

Another activist, Ciaron O’Reilly, one of five anti-war protesters acquitted of criminally damaging a US military aircraft at Shannon airport in 2006, said he met Kennedy twice in Ireland, including at an event organised by Gluaiseacht, a social justice movement, in Clare in 2005.

Activists in Ireland have been aware of Kennedy’s real identity since last October. “My main concern is not that the police in the UK and Ireland collect information on activists, but that they sometimes act as agent provocateurs in order to discredit the peace movement,” said anti-war activist Ed Horgan.

Labour TD Michael D Higgins has written to the Department of Justice regarding Kennedy’s activities in Ireland. “It is of grave concern,” he said. “This type of activity undermines respect for the law and it is very sinister in that it can damage good causes.”

A spokesman for the department said it had “no information on any alleged activities in this jurisdiction by the person in question”.