Gardai assault Shell to Sea protester - 'I have your life in my hands'


At 7pm last night Shell to Sea campaigners used kayaks to approach a Shell drilling platform in Broadhaven bay.  Five Gardai boats intercepted them and overturned the kayaks, dumping the campaigners in the water.  When one campaigner managed to swim underneath the platform he was hauled onto one of the Gardai boats where a Gardai proceeded to choke him for 90 seconds.

Shell have just started drilling 80 boreholes in the bay in preparation for their latest scheme to impose their experimental gas pipeline on the communities of Erris.  In order to try and avoid the safety issues raised in the An Bord Planala letter of the new year Shell now plan to tunnel under Sruth Fhada Chonn estuary despite the fact this is a  Specially Protected Area & part of the Broadhaven Bay Special Area of Conservation.  This new route will still be within 250m of houses.

According to Shell to Sea this mornings Gardai attack started when "One of the campaigners, Eoin Lawless managed to get close to the platform. When Gardaí overturned his kayak, he swam under the platform. A Garda then jumped into the water after him, and without giving any instruction proceeded to drag him from the water into the near by Garda boat.

Mr. Lawless said, “I had told Gardaí that I would leave the area but I was dragged from the water and they proceeded to kneel on my back. I was not informed whether I was under arrest or why I was being manhandled. One Garda then pinched my throat with his two fingers and cut off my air supply. He was obviously trained in how to do it. He held me like that for about 90 seconds, allowing me to take one or two gasps. He kept saying into my ear that he had my last breath in his hands.”

“It was terrifying. I truly believed he might kill me. We need human rights observers to come back down to Mayo as a matter of urgency” said Mr. Lawless.

Mr. Lawless received medical attention at Belmullet Garda station last night."

The request for Human Rights observers was presumably a reference to the Frontline report 'Breakdown in Trust' which  concluded that there is a situation of human rights' defence to which the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is applicable.

This mornings protest by Shell to Sea was part of a plan to try to stop Shell from drilling the boreholes over the next few months through a campaign of peaceful protest.  There is a long record of Gardai violence against Shell to Sea campaigners and as the Frontline report points out the Minister for Justice can and did veto "an investigation into certain policies and practices of the Garda Síochána regarding the Corrib gas dispute" by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) highlighting the generally toothless nature of the  Ombudsman and the reason why few campaigners now bother to file complaint's after they have been assaulted by Gardai.

This morning when Shell to Sea campaigners returned to the waters of Broadhaven bay they were again attacked by Gardai who stole 3 kayaks and a rib off them as well as arresting two campaigners.