EIRE/IRELAND: OUTRAGE AT PSYCHIATRIC ASSESSMENT DIRECTION BY MAYO COURT
The Celtic League has protested to the Irish government over the `harsh' treatment of Maura Harrington the Shell to Sea campaigner. Earlier this week 55 year old Mrs Harrington was sentenced to 28 days in jail.
There were scuffles outside Mountjoy Prison in Dublin on Wednesday as Mrs Harrington arrived in a prison van to begin her sentence. There have also been protests at the Department of Justice.
The Celtic League have also expressed concern over a direction from the trial judge that Mrs Harrington should undergo a «psychiatric assessment ». The decision has also been condemned in the Seanad where Senator David Norris likened the move to «a return to a time when attempts were made in eastern Europe to use psychiatry to control political expression» he added. «I think this is terribly, terribly, dangerous.»
The full text of the Celtic League protest is set out below:
«Minister Dermot Ahern Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform 94 Saint Stephen's Green Dublin 2, Ireland Email: info [at] ...
Dear Minister Dermot Ahern
Maura Harrington and Corrib gas project protest
I am writing following the conviction on 11th March at Belmullet District Court of the Shell to Sea protester Maura Harrington, for assaulting a Garda and contempt of court.
The conviction of Maura Harrington seems particularly harsh considering the heavy handed nature with which the Garda have dealt previously with protesters. We are aware that emotions have run high at some of the Shell to Sea protests, leading to the fraying of tempers among both protester and Garda alike. Even though we believe it is wrong for anyone to be physically struck - protester or Garda - we can nevertheless understand the injustice felt by protesters who widely see the Garda (and in turn the Government) to be wholly supportive of the interests of a big multinational company over the concerns of local residents.
Maura Harrington, a local retired primary school principal, is not an typical front line environmental activist and her actions show the depth of feeling that the Shell to Sea development has generated in the County Mayo community. We are aware that members of her family have also been involved in the protests and she even undertook a hunger strike last year in an attempt to stop the Corrib gas project. This would suggest that she is deeply involved in the campaign.
The verdict of Judge Mary Devins, who sentenced Maura Harrington this week, was unfortunate because it did not seem to adequately take into consideration the sense of injustice that has and is still being felt by ordinary County Mayo residents to the Corrib gas project development. The length of the sentence additionally suggests to protesters and the outside world that the courts are not as impartial to the Irish Government's stance on the matter as they could be.
Moreover, the fact that Judge Mary Devins said that Maura Harrington undergo psychiatric assessment is curious and uncalled for given the circumstances. As you will appreciate we believe all people should have the right to peaceful protest. Sometimes however, the laws that should be protecting our interests as a people and a community seem to run contrary to our concerns and interests and this is the way I am sure that many of the protesters of the Corrib gas project feel. On such occasions it should be expected that there will be a conflict of interest that manifests itself in disturbances of the peace. It should be the job of the government and law courts to respond sensitively in such situations, at the cost of causing long term resentment among people.
The Celtic League does not believe that, in the case of Maura Harrington, the government or courts have responded in a way that would suggest that they are being sensitive to the concerns of the residents of County Mayo who oppose the Shell development there.
Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League»
Related article on Celtic News at:
J B Moffatt Director of Information Celtic League 13/03/09