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Irish Independent: Death threats to Dempsey over comment on gas protest

Published: Oct 18, 2006

GARDAI have launched an investigation into “death threat” phone calls to the office of Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey.

Staff at the minister’s office were left “pretty shaken” after two phone calls containing explicit death threats were received just after Mr Dempsey had given a radio interview about the ongoing Corrib Gas terminal protest in Co Mayo.

In that interview, the minister said some of the protesters who were opposing the Shell gas terminal and pipeline made the likes of Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley look like reasonable men.

In his most trenchant criticism to date of the actions of the protesters in the Erris peninsula, the minister said there was an element in the area who just would not rest until they had put a stop to the Corrib Gas project.

Shortly after that interview on Monday, two phone calls were made to Mr Dempsey’s department in Dublin within minutes of each other and transferred to the minister’s office, where they were dealt with by two different members of his staff.

Both officials made detailed statements about the phone calls in interviews with the gardai yesterday.

A spokesperson for the minister said that staff were pretty shaken by the calls which were clear in their language and intention.

“They are being taken seriously and the matter is now in the hands of the gardai to decide what to do”, she said.

The calls were last night condemned by the Shell To Sea campaign, which has continued its protest over the Corrib gas terminal plans.

Spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said they had nothing to do with their campaign and they “absolutely and utterly” condemned the calls.

“Such actions have no role to play in our campaign and if anything do a grave disservice to it and only damage it,” he said.

“Anyone making such calls are not doing so with the interest of our campaign at heart.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 campaigners opposed to the gas terminal staged another silent protest yesterday at Bellanaboy.

Organisers said the demonstration was entirely peaceful and a convoy of vehicles took workers to the site without any interference.

The Shell to Sea group said it intends continuing with peaceful protests against the building of the 200 million terminal. They claim the project poses unacceptable health and safety risks to the area.

Meanwhile, four TDs have written a letter of protest to Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy about the garda videotaping of their press conference and the conduct of certain gardai during the politicians’ visit to the Corrib campaigners on Monday.

The four, independents Tony Gregory, Jerry Cowley, Seamus Healy and Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins complained about the “continuous and intrusive” presence of at least two gardai who were recording the entire proceedings with video cameras, and asked the commissioner to confirm there would be no repeat of the practice.

“We believe it to be unprecedented that members of the Oireachtas carrying out their representational functions would be subjected to this treatment”, they said.

“We seek an explanation. We wish to know who ordered this practice.

“We wish to know to what purpose it was carried out and to what use these video tapes are to be put.”

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