Rossport protesters under 24-hour surveillance by private security firm

OPPONENTS of the Corrib gas project in north Mayo are seeking legal advice on a communication recording 24-hour surveillance …

OPPONENTS of the Corrib gas project in north Mayo are seeking legal advice on a communication recording 24-hour surveillance of a protestors' camp by a private security company.

The emailed communication involves a “situation report” documenting movements at the Rossport solidarity camp, compiled by Integrated Risk Management Services (I-RMS), the security company employed by Shell E&P Ireland and Corrib gas developers.

The solidarity camp was initially established by environmental activists and students at Rossport in 2005 to support residents opposed to the Corrib gas pipeline.

The camp is currently pitched on privately-owned land at Aughoose -  one of two work locations for the final part of the Corrib gas pipeline along Sruwadaccon estuary, a special area of conservation.

The report by “Aughoose Command and Control Centre” comprises a timeline of movements on June 29th,  2012, which was preceded by a summary of information given by security staff during a  shift “change-over” at  7am on that day.

No names were recorded, but the report stated that 11 people were in the camp at that time (7am), and identified four vehicles parked on the roadside, describing these as “known” and giving their make.

It then recorded details of movements from 10.30am, beginning with “(1) cyclist left the camp in the Glengad direction”.

Details of movements were listed with times recorded at 11.03, 13.59, 15.30, 16.04, 16.17 and 16.54.

At another shift change-over at 18.45 on the same day, the report stated that there were five people in the camp and identified two vehicles parked on the roadside.

Six more movements between 19.09 and 23.00 were listed, and 12 people at the camp and four identified vehicles parked on the roadside were recorded at 7am.

The report provided headings for “known protesters [sic]” and “Known local protestors”, but these spaces were left blank.

It is understood that the report was inadvertently forwarded by a senior member of I-RMS management to a non-company email, following its circulation among a group of ten email addresses on June 30th last.

Two retired members of the Garda Siochána are listed among the 10 on the circulation list - former superintendent Pat Doyle, who works for I-RMS as part of the Senaca Group, and former chief superintendent and head of the Mayo Garda division John Carey, who was hired by Shell E&P Ireland in 2006.

In a statement to The Irish Times, I-RMS said “we are tasked with protecting people and property in respect of the Corrib gas project and in so doing, operate to the highest standards, acting responsibly and proportionally at all times”.

University College Dublin (UCD) law lecturer TJ McIntyre, who is chairman of the independent civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland,  said such a situation could amount to a potential criminal offence of harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997. The nature of collection and distribution of such information also raised questions under the Data Protection Act, he said.

If personal data collected was then accidentally released to other parties, there would be an obligation to make contact and notify the subjects of this release, he said.

“However, without the full facts it is impossible to say whether either an offence or a breach of data protection law may have taken place,” Mr McIntyre added.

A Rossport solidarity camp spokesman it was a “worrying development”, and it was seeking legal advice.

“There is no State agency that we can trust to report this to, given our experience with Corrib to date,” the spokesman said.

He said the camp already had issues with I-RMS, in that it did not respond to two data protection requests made in 2009 and late 2011 for information or video footage recorded at Corrib gas protests.

The company said it "noted" the 2009 request but had "no record" of the 2011 request.

* This article was amended on August 10th, 2012. An earlier version of this article was published in error.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

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