Two Corrib gas protesters jailed


Two leading Corrib gas activists were today jailed for four months over demonstrations against energy giant Shell’s controversial project.

Maura Harrington was imprisoned for the third time this year at a special court sitting in Mayo for refusing to leave a beach near the route of a controversial gas pipeline.

Her fellow campaigner Niall Harnett was also sentenced to four months for public order offences.

The pair had been offered release on bail if they agreed to sign a bond setting out strict conditions on movements and where their protests could be carried out. Both activists refused.

Harrington and Harnett had been brought before Belmullet courthouse along with at least six other activists over ongoing protests involving the Shell to Sea campaign and the Rossport Solidarity Camp.

Gary Ronaghan, Dublin Shell to Sea spokesman, described the jail sentences as ludicrous.

“The rule of law has effectively been suspended in Erris (Co Mayo) ... a simple refusal to move when told to do so by a garda results in a four-month jail sentence,” the activist claimed.

“At a time when the Government is proposing huge cuts in public services which will hit the most vulnerable, the idea that these two campaigners should be sent to prison for such a minor offence at the expense of the taxpayer is ludicrous.

“It shows that the state will stop at nothing to silence those who question this project.”

Mr Ronaghan also hit out at the Corrib project claiming it is unpopular in the rural Mayo community while protesters are criminalised.

Shell to Sea supporters arranged a protest outside Mountjoy for Harrington’s arrival.

Harrington (55) had been arrested during protests on Glengad beach on August 30th last year. She had been with a large number of protesters in the area as Shell attempted to push ahead with work on the off-shore section of the gas pipeline.

She was charged with wilful obstruction and failure to comply with a garda.

Harnett (43) faced several charges including threatening and abusive behaviour, obstructing and failure to comply with a garda and also breach of the peace over several days of protest.

On August 30, 2008 campaigners from Shell to Sea and the Rossport Solidarity Camp had picketed the Shell compound near the beach and scuffles later broke out.

Harrington has been one of the most vocal Corrib gas protesters and started a hunger strike last year when the world’s largest pipe laying vessel the Solitairewas brought into Broadhaven Bay in Mayo to work on the offshore section.

She was also jailed for 28 days in March this year for slapping a garda during demonstrations and in May she was jailed for a further 14 days after failing to pay a fine and donation to the garda benevolent fund over the first incident.