Last week Mrs Margaret Sekaggya, the UN special rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, met a delegation of 10 people to discuss the issues they face regarding the Corrib Gas Project. The delegation comprised seven members of Shell to Sea, Kilcommon parish priest Fr Michael Nallen, and two members of the human rights monitoring organisation Table Observers: Sr Majella McCarron and Donal Ó Mearáin.
Mrs Sekaggya is visiting Ireland in order to evaluate the situation of human rights defenders in the country and will present a report with her findings to the UN Human Rights Council in March next year. Members of the delegation raised many issues of concern including violence by the gardaí, behaviour of the private security, the democratic deficit in the planning process, surveillance and harassment, selectivity in the application of the law, the undermining and stigmatisation of campaigners by the judiciary, the politicisation of the judicial process, and the ineffectiveness of designated oversight bodies in particular the Garda Ombudsman.
Sr McCarron spoke of her positive experience of interacting with the Department of Foreign Affairs while working on Nigerian human rights issues, but said that when it came to working on domestic human rights issues the Government attitude totally changed. She stated about her experience of dealing with various Government departments: “Ireland got the seat on the Human Rights Council because of their Foreign Affairs policy and not because of their domestic record. There is no regime or understanding of human rights in Ireland apart from as a diplomatic exercise.”
Table Observers highlighted four areas of concern emerging from its human rights observations in Co Mayo; the State's ambivalence towards human rights, behaviour of the police force which appears to have “intimidatory or provocative intent”, the behaviour of private security, and the impression that court hearings are “manipulated by the State for political reasons”.