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Fishermen guaranteed protection by the Gardai – Call out for legal funds to help Pat O'Donnell

category mayo | environment | news report author Thursday June 25, 2009 00:15author by S2S Report this post to the editors

The last few days have seen some very interesting developments in the situation after Pat O'Donnell's boat was sunk. First of all, we had an appeal from Pat for State protection (see below) to the Gardai on Sunday. This was read out in full on local radio on Wednesday, and it went into some other media coverage too. Following on from this, the Gardai called out to Mr. O'Donnell, and asked him what he wanted in terms of protection – his reply was: a 500 metre exclusion zone around his boat, and a Garda RIB to accompany him when he goes out. They agreed to the second one, and didn't really comment on the first(!).

Two swimmers were also arrested this evening Wednesday, despite being well outside Shell's so-called exclusion zone. Well, the 200+ Gardai up here have to justify their existence somehow...
Pat 'The Chief' O'Donnell
Pat 'The Chief' O'Donnell

We're also calling on ye to dig deep if ye can to help Pat O'Donnell in his ongoing battle to have his rights to fish Broadhaven Bay vindicated – he's been arrested a number of times, but they can't get him out of the Bay, and the support of his legal team plays a big part in that. The problem is that money is running short, and we need your help to make it up! So, if you can at all, please visit

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hos...67626
you can donate with a credit card or through a PayPal account.

Here's what's been going on over the last few days in a bit more detail...

Pat O’Donnell granted protection by Gardai after boat sinking

Following a number of requests for State protection, and the sinister sinking of his boat the Iona Isle, Pat O’Donnell and three other fishermen have been guaranteed protection at sea by the Gardai through the presence of a Garda vessel, while they are working in their fishing grounds at sea. They have also issued a 500 metre exclusion zone around their boats. This marks the first real acknowledgement by the authorities of the dangers being faced by Mr. O’Donnell and others while they are going about their daily work, as a result of their opposition to the destruction of fishing grounds by Shell’s Corrib Gas Project.

A letter appealing for a meeting with Supt. Larkin on this issue was delivered to Belmullet Garda Station on Sunday 21 June, and also forwarded to relevant media. After this letter was read out on Mid-West Radio, and also referenced in numerous other media outlets, the Gardai visited Mr. O’Donnell and agreed to the conditions outlined above.

A number of Mr. O'Donnell's crab pots were illegally removed from the sea bed in Broadhaven Bay last night by Shell contracted vessels. Gardai have been informed and are investigating the incident.
Mr. O’Donnell has requested State protection on a number of occasions, notably at a public meeting with Ministers Ryan and O Cuiv in Inver Community Hall on April 30th. These were rejected. These requests arose from a fear for his safety in the context of attacks on other prominent opponents of the Corrib Gas Project, such as Willie Corduff, and were proven well founded by the sinking of the Iona Isle.

The community have also made calls for an independent inquiry into the sinking of the Iona Isle, and for a meeting with the Minister for Justice to discuss the safety and security issues arising from Shell's imposition of a very large force of security upon the community.

Pat O'Donnell said: “It's great that the danger being faced by people who'll stand up to Shell is finally being recognised. I've talked about how this situation is going downhill, and I was proven right again when my boat was sunk. The Solitaire will be arriving soon, but my family has been fishing this Bay for five generations, and we won't let our livelihood be destroyed by Shell – now it's up to the Gardai to make sure that our rights are protected.”

 
Erris Fishermen demand Garda protection as Solitaire approaches Broadhaven Bay

 
Three hundred Gardai were drafted into Erris, Co Mayo, this weekend, to work alongside Shell’s private security as the pipelaying Solitaire vessel prepares to move into Broadhaven Bay. Shell E&P alerted local residents on Friday that the Solitaire was on its way and declared a unilateral exclusion zone of 500 metres but failed to cite any legal basis for their demand. Local fisherman Pat O’Donnell has requested an urgent meeting with Gardai at Belmullet to ensure that his constitutional right to carry out his normal work activities is respected during this period.

Below, the full text of the letter sent to Supt Larkin at Belmullet Garda station by a group of Porturlin fishermen.
 
Porturlin Shore/Ballina/Co Mayo
From Patrick O’Donnell, Tony O’Donnell, Martin O’Donnell, Jonathan O’Donnell.
21/6/09
 
Attn Supt Larkin
Garda Station/Belmullet/Co Mayo.
 
Dear Supt Larkin,
 
We are writing to you to request an urgent meeting regarding safety at sea-our
place of work. As you are aware, a number of incidents have occurred which have put lives and boats at risk. This situation appears to be getting worse all the time, as evidenced by the sinking of the Iona Isle on June 11th 2009. As fishermen working in the seas at Broadhaven Bay, going back four generations, we will be working as normal over the summer months. We understand that a number of Shell-contracted vessels may be operating in the same area as ourselves, giving rise to a number of safety concerns.
 
Last year the arrival of the Solitaire resulted in chaos on the seas and with it grave danger to my family and fellow fishermen, we are anxious to ensure that this does not happen again.
 
Last year we made a number of calls to the Gardai requesting urgent assistance due to well documented safety fears. These calls were all ignored. This year we demand state protection for our boats and lives before a fatality occurs.
           
We would like to discuss this issue at the earliest possible convenience,
 
Awaiting your response,
 
Pat, Martin, Jonathan and Tony (signed).

Related Link: http://www.shelltosea.com
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