Since May 19 2009, Maura Harrington, a charismatic figure in the struggle against Shell concerning Mayo's gas fields, has been incarcerated in Mountjoy prison for the second time in three months. Once again, she was driven on the long road from Belmullet to Dublin to serve a prison sentence, this time for refusing on principle to pay a £300 fine. At short notice an outraged group of Dublin supporters blocked the Garda van for 20 minutes and prevented it from entering Mountjoy prison until Gardai forcibly removed the protestors
She had already spent 28 days in the notorious prison, a sentence which began on 11 March last. On that occasion, Judge Mary Devins, wife of a Fianna Fail Junior Minister in the Irish Government, ordered that she receive a psychiatric examination.
MAURA HARRINGTON story
Wikipedia's entry says: "Maura Harrington (born 15 September 1953) is a spokeswoman for the Shell to Sea campaign, from County Mayo, Ireland. A recently retired school principal, on 9 September 2008 she began a hunger strike in protest at the arrival of the Solitaire, an Allseas pipe-laying ship assisting Royal Dutch Shell's Corrib gas project. The strike took place at the gates of the Shell compound in Glengad in Erris, in her car. It ended after the ship left Ireland for repairs.
"Harrington was previously involved in fundraising for the British Miners' Strike.
"On 11 November 2006, Harrington was hospitalised after a baton-charge by Garda Síochána at Bellanaboy left her with head injuries.
"No-one was charged with the assault.
"She appeared in Belmullet District Court on 8 October 2008 accused of a public order offence related to her "lunging" towards President Mary McAleese at the official opening of a civic centre in Belmullet in April 2007. In March 2009, she was found guilty of this charge. She was also found guilty of assaulting a Garda during a fracas which saw several protesters injured. For this, she was given a sentence of 28 days imprisonment, fined and bound to keep the peace for 12 months, though she refused to pay the fine or sign the bond. The judge in the case, Mary Devins, also directed Harrington to receive a psychiatric assessment due to what she described as her "bizarre" behaviour.
"Harrington denied both charges, and refused to give evidence in protest after Judge Devins refused to allow video evidence of the incident of the assault to be shown".
MATTER RAISED IN SEANAD BY SENATOR DAVID NORRIS
On 12 March 2009, Senator David Norris raised the matter of Maura's imprisonment, and the Judge's comments and order, in the Irish Seanad.
Senator David Norris: "I ask for a debate on the Corrib gas field. I do so in light of my considerable concern at the jailing of Ms Maura Harrington and the process which led to it.
"A former Minister of the Government gave this field away for nothing. The Minister concerned was subsequently jailed in the wake of a corruption scandal. He gave it away to Shell, one of the worst polluters and one of the most avid multinationals. It has been involved in incidents of pollution and was deeply implicated in the judicial murder of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa. It literally got away with murder in Kenya and there have been explosions in many other places where it has oil terminals.
"I am concerned about this and would be very sorry if, after the Garda having been enlisted on behalf of a multinational, the courts system would begin to play a role in this matter.
"Judges are above criticism, apparently, and we cannot even ask questions about their remuneration. They are immune from cuts. I am concerned when judges feel free to comment widely on the personality traits of somebody they are sentencing, this is not a judicial matter.
"She then referred Ms. Harrington for psychiatric examination in addition to jailing her for 28 days. Are we returning to eastern Europe? Is it an attempt to use psychiatry to control political expression? This is terribly dangerous territory."