Shell welcomes Garda examination of alcohol claims

Report claimed drink worth €35,000 was delievered to gardai on Shell’s behalf

Shell E&P Ireland said today it welcomes an examination by An Garda Síochána of allegations that a contractor delivered large quantities of alcohol to Belmullet Garda station on its behalf.

The lead Corrib gas project developer was responding to today's Irish Times report that An Garda appointed a senior officer over a month ago to examine the claims made by contractor OSSL.

OSSL, which is managed by Desmond Kane of Glasgow and Neil Rooney of Belfast, provided services to the Corrib gas project from 2002 until 2010.

The examination, by Supt Thomas Murphy of Swinford Garda station, is subsequent to inquiries previously conducted by gardaí into allegations made to the district officer at Belmullet Garda station on December 7th, 2011, that "alcohol was distributed to members of An Garda Síochána on behalf of Shell E&P".


An Garda said at the weekend it had “found no evidence” to back up the allegations. However, it confirmed to this newspaper yesterday a new examination had been initiated.

Last Sunday’s Observer newspaper reported the deliveries on Shell’s behalf by OSSL included a drinks consignment worth €35,000 to Belmullet Garda station in December 2007.

This was six months after one of the most fractious Corrib gas protests, where a number of people were injured at Pollathomas pier.

It led to a Garda Ombudsman investigation and recommendation- not acted upon to date - that a senior officer handling the protest be disciplined.

Shell E&P Ireland said in a statement this morning) that OSSL’s allegations were “first raised in the context of a contractual dispute in 2010 following the termination of OSSL’s original contract to supply sub-contracting services during the construction of the Corrib gas terminal in Co Mayo”.

The company said “invoices for alleged alcohol deliveries in 2007 were not generated by OSSL until August 24th, 2012 following the settlement of the contractual dispute earlier the same month”.

“To date, OSSL have not been able to supply receipts or any form of written evidence to support their claims,” the company said, and it was “satisfied that OSSL was treated fairly as a contractor on the Corrib gas project”.

“Furthermore, SEPIL is satisfied that the allegations made by OSSL have been investigated and no evidence has been found to substantiate them,” the company said.

“We hope An Garda Síochána’s involvement will bring this matter to an end”.

Two human rights organisations, Frontline Defenders and Afri, and Corrib gas protest group Shell to Sea yesterday called for inquiries into the allegations reported in the Observer.

The Observer also claimed the same contractor had been asked to provide “sweeteners” to local residents, including “a tennis court, cookers, television sets, agricultural equipment, school fees, home improvements, garden centre visits, forestry equipment”.

A spokesman for Frontline said while it could not comment on the veracity of the allegations, the issue of lack of trust by the north Mayo community in gardaí policing the gas project has arisen during its report by barrister Brian Barrington on the project in 2010, and again when it participated with Amnesty International in independent monitoring of protest during six months of 2011.

“The perception has been that the gardaí have not been impartial in their policing, and so it is in the force’s interest to clarify a situation regarding serious allegations,” the Frontline spokesman said.

Afri peace and justice group spokesman Joe Murray called on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to "overcome his bias against the protesters, and to initiate an independent inquiry".

“Otherwise, it will appear that he believes this to be an acceptable model of how the law works in Ireland,” Mr Murray said in a statement.

The Department of Justice has confirmed that contact was made with the Garda Commissioner about the claims in correspondence sent to it in May.

It said Garda authorities informed Mr Shatter that “inquiries conducted into the allegations found no evidence of alcohol being distributed to members of the Garda Siochána by or on behalf of the company named”.

The Garda Ombudsman confirmed yesterday that it was not currently investigating the claims, which first surfaced on the whistleblowers’ website

Shell to Sea has called for a "fully independent international inquiry". It said that a recommendation made last year by UN Human Rights Defenders Special Rapporteur Mrs Margaret Sekaggya that "all allegations and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute" be investigated in a prompt and impartial manner had been ignored to date.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times