MEP lodges complaint over Corrib protest with Garda ombudsman


DUBLIN SOCIALIST Party MEP Paul Murphy has lodged a formal complaint with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission over alleged mistreatment by gardaí policing a protest in Co Mayo.

Mr Murphy claims he was subjected to excessive force by gardaí during the protest over Shell’s Corrib gas project last Thursday.

He said he was left with bruising and was unable to chew properly for a number of days after gardaí used “pressure point” techniques on him when removing him and other protesters.

He has submitted photographs of himself, taken by others, while being removed from a sit-down protest on a roadway. Some of the photos show small bruises, which Mr Murphy said he sustained when being subjected to the techniques.

These tactics are used by the Garda and prison officers to subdue prisoners or people who pose a public order risk. They involve using fingers to apply pressure to certain areas of the body, including behind the ear, aimed at physically subduing a person for a short period to allow their arrest or removal from a public order incident.

Mr Murphy’s complaint is that the force used against him and others was excessive and disproportionate to any risk posed by the protest on the day. He described the actions of some gardaí as “outrageous”.

“Garda brutality has been a persistent feature of the situation in Rossport since the end of 2006, when the area was effectively militarised with hundreds of gardaí coming into the area,” he said.

“At that time, protesters including myself were subjected to serious assaults by the gardaí, including being thrown into ditches, beaten with batons and deliberately punched.”

He said that during the incident last Thursday he was one of a group that sat on a roadway to block gardaí from driving a cherrypicker into a location at Erris near Aughoose. Gardaí were trying to remove a protester who had climbed onto the roof of a Shell lorry at one of the company’s sites.

The works were part of a construction project to lay a pipeline that will carry sludge with gas from the seashore to Shell’s onshore plant for refining into gas.

Mr Murphy, who travelled to Mayo as part of a Socialist Party delegation, claims gardaí were aggressive when they moved in, and made no attempt to use any approach apart from an extreme one.

He says he was picked up by four or five gardaí, had the area behind his ear and his left jaw pressed hard and also suffered blows to his ribs and head, while having his ears twisted with some force.

He was among a group of between 15 and 20 protesters removed from the road by gardaí and put behind Garda lines, though they were not arrested.

Mr Murphy lodged his complaint yesterday afternoon at the offices in Dublin of the Garda ombudsman. He said he had no confidence his complaint would progress in any meaningful fashion, pointing out that of the 111 complaints lodged in relation to the policing of the Shell to Sea protests, 78 were deemed inadmissible by the ombudsman and seven were sent to the DPP.

“Most strikingly, only one file was sent to the Garda Commissioner’s office calling for disciplinary procedures. To date, no disciplinary action has been taken.”

A spokesman for the ombudsman said it did not comment on individual cases.

As well as an investigation of his complaint, Mr Murphy said a public inquiry should be held into the entire policing operation around the Shell project and the working relationship between Shell’s private security contractors and the Garda.

He said the working relationship between the Garda and Shell security guards was too close and went “well beyond” the co-operation between the Garda and private security firms at events such as concerts and sporting fixtures.