SOME 75 per cent of complaints made about policing aspects of the Corrib gas project were admitted for investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, and seven files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
However, the DPP would not accept evidence for criminal prosecution of gardaí in all seven cases and six of those cases were now “closed”, the commission’s head of communications Kieran FitzGerald told the ministerial northwest Mayo forum in Erris yesterday.
The seventh case was being pursued in “another investigative form”, Mr FitzGerald said.
The forum in Corrán Buí health centre was attended by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív.
Mr FitzGerald said that 111 complaints had been received about policing at the Corrib project since the commission was set up in May 2007.
Of these, 78 were deemed “admissible” and 33 were deemed inadmissible for investigation. Some 55 files were “closed”– ie the investigation had been completed – and 23 cases were still “open”, he said.
Last week the commission confirmed disciplinary action would be taken against a senior member of the Garda in relation to the handling of a protest at Pollathomas pier in June 2007.
Mr FitzGerald said the situation in north Mayo was “unique”, as the commission did not have another situation that had given rise to 111 complaints.
At an earlier People’s Forum, held by the Shell to Sea group in Belmullet yesterday, the commission’s press spokesman, Graham Doyle, said a survey it had undertaken on reasons why people would not make complaints had identified two factors: people believed nothing would be done, or that it would make matters worse for them in relation to the Garda.
“That’s exactly what I am hearing here today,” Mr Doyle said.
Several members of the Rossport solidarity camp said that complainants were the subject of undue attention, even warrants, issued by gardaí after complaints had been made to the commission.
“We’ve been wounded and brutalised, and we feel we are wasting our time now talking to the Garda Ombudsman,” Winifred Macklin, a local resident, told Mr Doyle.
A silent protest was held by members of Shell to Sea later at the ministerial forum in Corrán Buí, which was attended by representatives of State agencies, the Garda, Mayo County Council and Shell EP Ireland.
After chairman Joe Brosnan requested that Shell to Sea not film the proceedings, Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle said that the meeting should continue. “There’s nothing here we want to hide,” Mr Coyle said.
Mr Ryan said all were welcome and the terms of reference were “flexible”. He urged residents to participate in its discussions.
Two community groups, Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal Le Chéile, refused to participate in the ministerial forum, and said the process was “continuing to miss the point at issue in our community, by focusing on ‘development’ about which we are all in agreement”. The forum was “completely ignoring the health and safety issues surrounding the gas project”, the groups said.
Details of Government spending of €750,000 on projects in the area, and Shell EP Ireland’s various funding initiatives were also discussed at the session.
An Bord Pleanála’s decision on the modified route for the onshore gas pipeline is due to be delivered this week. A resumed court hearing will also take place this week in relation to the contempt of court ruling against Shell, issued in early September, in relation to the Rossport commonage.