Environmental activist Maura Harrington is facing nine months behind bars after she refused to sign a bond restricting her right to protest against Shell Oil and Gas over its plans to build an onshore gas pipeline and refinery on the north Mayo coast.
Ms Harringron was sentenced to nine months in prison by Judge Gerard Haughton in Belmullet District Court last month in relation to cutting a net beside Shell’s compound at Glengad. The damage to the net amounted to just 160 euro, and took place in an area that planning authorities have since stated that Shell does not have permission.
This sentence was initially suspended, but was activated when Ms. Harrington refused to sign a bond binding her to the peace, thereby restricting her right to campaign against the high-pressure onshore pipeline. Shell’s plans have caused immense concern in the area and have been compared to the environemntal destruction wreaked by the firm on the Nigerian coast.
In refusing to sign the bond, Ms Harrington made reference to Judge Denham’s famous ‘appalling vista’ comment, which refers to the ‘appaling vista’ of seeing Judges accepting police evidence without question. She also stated: Given the continuing imposition of the proposed Corrib Gas Project, the reality at Glengad is that justice and law are mutually exclusive.
No evidence was provided of Shell’s right to place the nets on the cliffs in Glengad, where they prevented sandmartins from nesting in an area designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Twenty-five campaigners appeared before the week of special sittings in the second week of November to deal specially with objectors to the Corrib Gas Project. Three other suspended sentences along with a number of fines have been handed out to some of the cases that were heard.
‘Shell to Sea’ spokesperson Terence Conway said: This sentence is far above and beyond the supposed crime of 160 euro damage to a net, which Shell did not have the right to put there. This sentence shows just how biased towards Shell the justice system in this area has become.
“Maura Harrington has long had a principled opposition to the destruction of the community and the giveaway of Ireland’s natural resources, and for this she has been criminalised by the Gardai and the judiciary.