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Thursday 26 April 2018

Gardai tried to inflict pain on me at Corrib protest claims MEP

Ed Carty

An MEP has lodged a complaint with the Garda Ombudsman over alleged assault during a sit-down protest at the controversial Shell gas project in north Mayo.

Paul Murphy, of the Socialist Party, has claimed gardai used excessive force to clear him from a public road near the Corrib refinery near Ballinaboy.

"It was a conscious attempt to inflict pain," he said.

"No time passed between we, the protesters, sitting down and the gardai reacting with force. There was no time for mediation, no attempt.

"There was no discussion that we would agree to leave."

About 20 demonstrators including Shell-to-Sea activists and Socialist Party members sat down in front of a truck on a road near the refinery development while one climbed on to the roof of the vehicle.

Mr Murphy claims gardai moved swiftly and aggressively to clear people from the road.

The MEP stated that he was punched on the head, suffered a badly bruised upper arm, was repeatedly prodded in the ribs, had one of his ears twisted and suffered severe pain after a garda attacked pressure points between his jaw bone and ear. He said he found it difficult to chew food for a few days.

"There was a disproportionate use of force. There was a focus on the pressure points and a deliberate targeting of people's pressure points," he said.

Following the incident, gardai said they do not discuss individual cases but insisted officers were duty bound to clear protests blocking public roads and preventing workers going about their business.

Mr Murphy, who has joined about 10 demonstrations in Mayo since 2006 and has not made any other formal complaint, said he would continue to protest.

"If anything, the recession and the economic crisis make it more important to fight on this issue," he said.

"It's becoming more and more of an issue thanks only to Shell-to-Sea highlighting it and the question that maybe something went wrong on this deal.

"All the gas is still in the ground, it's still in Irish waters, it could still be nationalised to create jobs and help the economy, fund public services.

"There is still a very important battle to be fought."

Mr Murphy has submitted photographs of the incident last Thursday, taken by Shell-to-Sea activists.

After being lifted off the road by a number of gardai Mr Murphy was not detained further. Only one arrest was made on the day - the protester who climbed on board the truck.

The Garda Ombudsman has received 114 complaints about policing involving protesters at the Corrib project.

The most high profile complaint involved allegations that Garda officers were recorded on tape as they joked about raping two female Shell-to-Sea protesters after their arrest.

It prompted an apology from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan but the Ombudsman later said in an interim report that it had found no evidence of a criminal offence and investigations are continuing.

A spokesman for the Garda press office declined to comment on the MEP's complaint as the matter is in the hands of the Ombudsman.

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