A number of key campaigners and activists opposed to Shell’s plans to build an inland gas refinery and high pressure gas pipeline running to it from the Corrib gas fields off the West Coast of Ireland were in court between the 9 and 11 February appealing criminal charges. Whilst some were able to have charges dropped, Pat O’Donnell now faces seven months in prison on charges of ‘breach of the peace’ and ‘obstructing a Garda (Irish police)’. Prominent activist and primary school headteacher, Maura Harrington, has had her sentencing postponed by a year.
Pat O’Donnell: “All I am trying to do is protect my family and the seas that are our livelihood. My family has fished these waters for five generations – I have no authority to sell the rights to these waters.”
Pat O’Donnell, a 52 year old fisherman from Erris, has been a leading activist opposed to Shell’s plans to build an inland gas refinery and high pressure gas pipeline, which would run through his community, since 2005, when the Erris Inshore Fisherman’s Association united against the plans. Shell signed an agreement over the pipeline with the Association in 2008, but because of his concerns about pollution Pat refused to sign.
He has consequently faced intimidation and harassment from the police and Shell’s private security, including repeated instances of wrongful arrest leading to no charge. His periods of detention in custody have provided good opportunities for Shell boats to destroy his ‘obstructive’ fishing gear out at sea and undertake construction work, even though existing legislation means that Shell is unable to force fishermen to remove their fishing gear. In a particularly terrifying incident in June 2009, four masked men boarded Pat’s fishing boat, sinking it after holding him at gunpoint. This occurred at the same time as Shell’s pipe-laying ship, the Solitaire, prepared to enter Broadhaven Bay.
‘Shell to Sea’ spokesperson Terence Conway commented that, “Pat O’Donnell has been a constant thorn in Shell’s side as he has refused to be bought off, and has upheld his legal and traditional right to fish in Broadhaven Bay. Now, as Shell prepares to occupy Broadhaven Bay in the coming months for further pipeline work, Pat O‘Donnell is conveniently stuck in jail.”
Since 2005, a community-led direct action campaign has been incredibly successful in halting Shell’s plans to build the proposed inland gas refinery and preventing the company from laying the upstream pipeline. However, Shell is planning large-scale work in Broadhaven Bay during 2010: to construct the off-shore section of its proposed gas pipeline. And also in Sruth Fhada Chonn estuary: to survey a new route for its onshore Corrib gas pipeline.
Campaigners are calling for solidarity messages to be sent to Pat.
Write with your support to:
Pat O’Donnell, Castlerea Prison, Harristown, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon