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Norris questions judge’s ruling in Shell to Sea case

Friday, March 13, 2009

JIMMY WALSH

SEANAD REPORT: DAVID NORRIS (Ind) said he wondered if the decision of a judge to refer a Shell to Sea activist for psychiatric examination indicated a return to a time when attempts were made in eastern Europe to use psychiatry to control political expression.

“I think this is terribly, terribly, dangerous.”

Calling for a debate on the Corrib gasfield controversy, Mr Norris said he was greatly concerned at the jailing of Maura Harrington and the process that had led to it.

A minister of the day had given this field away for nothing to Shell, which was one of the worst polluters and one of the most avid multinationals. He would be very sorry if, the Garda having been enlisted on behalf of a multinational, the court system should then begin to play a role in this matter.

Mr Norris said he was concerned when judges felt free to comment widely on the personality traits of someone they were sentencing. In this case, the judge had made it clear she did not believe in the idealism of Ms Harrington because of her “enjoyment” of the public limelight.

He wondered about the qualifications of an individual to pronounce on a non-judicial matter. The judge had referred Ms Harrington for psychiatric examination, having jailed her for 28 days.

Mr Norris said Ms Harrington had slapped a garda in the face. “I had my face slapped and the person did not go to jail for 28 days,” he said.

Maurice Cummins (FG) said it was important to recognise that gardaí put their lives on the line daily on behalf of the public. Many of them had suffered horrific injuries while performing their duties.

A strong message should go out from the House that no assault on a garda would be condoned. There should be mandatory custodial sentences for assaults on gardaí or emergency service personnel.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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