Willie Corduff

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Willie Corduff (born 1953) is an Irish environmental activist from the farming community of Rossport, Kilcommon, Erris. Corduff's parents first arrived in Rossport in 1947, and reclaimed a farm by hand out of bogland.[1] He became a campaigner against Shell's activities in his local area. He is married to Mary and they have six children and four grandchildren.

Beginning of activism[edit]

His farming existence changed with the discovery of gas eighty three kilometres offshore to the west of Broadhaven Bay. In 2000 he discovered the exploitation of the gas involved the construction of a high pressure pipeline, 70 metres from their house, to a new refinery to be built in Bellanboy townland, just across the bay from his farm. He was also concerned about the proposed refinery site, its suitability and its proximity to the primary source of water for the region. His concerns were echoed by other locals who demanded participation in the process. Willie's father campaigned against the introduction of electricity to selected areas of the country as part of the Marshall aid after World War 2 as it was proposed to bring electricity to the towns only and leave those on rural farms and areas outside of the towns without any supply.

Rossport Five[edit]

In 2004 Frank Fahey, then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources signed a Compulsory Acquisition Order to force the raw gas pipeline through his land. Landowner Willie Corduff said that "allowing Shell to construct a pipeline would be the same as having a time-bomb in the vicinity".[2] Corduff refused Shell access to his land and was subsequently jailed for 94 days in 2005 as one of the Rossport Five for defying a court order not to interfere with Shell's work. In 2006 he said he was "prepared to die" rather than see the pipeline cross his land.[3]

Shell to Sea[edit]

He is one of the founding members of the Shell to Sea campaign group which was set up in the aftermath of the campaign to free the Rossport Five and to oppose the pipeline and refinery. Its aim is to have the gas processed at sea. He has actively campaigned with them and has been arrested on numerous occasions.[4][5]

Pobal Chill Chomáin[edit]

He is also a founding member of Pobal Chill Chomáin, a local pressure group of residents in the parish of Kilcommon seeking rerouting of the pipeline and location of the refinery. In June 2009 PCC members Vincent McGrath with Willie and Mary Corduff had a meeting with the Norwegian Ambassador to discuss local concerns about the project.[6]

Goldman Environmental Prize[edit]

He was awarded the European winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2007 for his part in the protest campaign, which led to a halt of the construction of a pipeline through their land by Shell.[7] He is the first Irish recipient ever of this award which is known as the "Nobel green prize" and is awarded to six people from the six continental regions every year who have taken great personal risk in the name of environmental protection.[8]

"This year's Prize recipients have succeeded in combating some of the most important environmental challenges we face today," said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. "Their commitment in the face of great personal risk inspires us all to think more critically about what ordinary people can do to make a difference."[9]

2009 alleged assault[edit]

In April 2009, Shell resumed laying the offshore section of the pipeline after its environmental management plan was approved by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan. Mr Corduff and two others climbed under a lorry at midday on Wednesday 22 April in a bid to stop work at a Glengad compound. He remained there until 4am on 23 April when he took a break. Following this, he was allegedly assaulted by several balaclaved men, including being hit on the head with a baton or torch, by security men working at the site.[10] [11][12][13][14] The Registrar of Mayo General Hospital confirmed Corduff's injuries were consistent with his account of the assault, and photos obtained by Village Magazine, taken while he was in hospital and in the days after his release, show bruising on his head, face and body.[15] Jim Farrell, a director of I-RMS, stated that he and his employees had intended to remove Corduff, but found him standing up, and had him taken away by ambulance when he complained of chest pains.[16]

Nobel peace prize winner, and patron of Afri, Archbishop Desmond Tutu condemned the alleged assault and called for a national and international investigation into it.[17]

On 27 April 2010, an independent report for the Frontline human rights organisation based in Dublin recommended that gardaí from outside Mayo carry out a new investigation into the alleged assault on Rossport farmer Willie Corduff.

The analysis by barrister Brian Barrington, who has extensive experience relating to policing and human rights in Northern Ireland, of a number of incidents relating to the Corrib gas dispute was critical of Shell, the Garda, I-RMS security employed by Shell, the Department of Energy and a minority of protesters. In his analysis of the alleged assault on Mr Corduff, Mr Barrington obtained hospital records which stated that Mr Corduff had "been kicked all over the body" and experienced loss of consciousness, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Mr Barrington sought the opinion of Dr John Good, who has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross assessing asylum seekers who have made claims of assault or torture, on the medical reports. Dr. Good found that Mr Corduff's injuries were "totally consistent with a history of assault".[18] [19]

Featured in the media[edit]

Willie has featured in several recent documentaries; 'Pipe Down': Winner of the Best Feature Documentary, Waterford Film Festival and 'The Pipe' – Winner Best Feature Documentary Galway Film Festival (July) 2010.

In October 2009 he and his wife were featured in an episode of Would you believe on RTÉ television in Ireland.[20] The documentary was entitled Living on the Edge. As it is part of a religious Affairs series Willie revealed he stopped attending church when the Bishop and the local priest blessed the gas rig and became advocates for the gas project.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission[edit]

He has made a complaint, regarding an alleged assault by a Garda in April 2009, to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).[21]

Willie's wife Mary, who received treatment for injuries, was one of 14 people who were told in October 2007 their complaints were deemed admissible, to the GSOC, in relation to their treatment and alleged assault by Gardaí at a protest at Pollathomas pier in June 2007.[22] The GSOC has recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of An Garda Síochána in relation to the handling of this.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mistiaen, Veronique (22 April 2007). "Tale of rural Irishman who blocked oil giant. Farmer rallied town and nation to halt Shell's gas pipeline". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Shiel, Tom and McNelly, Liam (12 January 2005). "Gardaí called to pipe site over access row". Irish Independent Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Shiel, Tom and McNelly, Liam (4 May 2006). ""I'm prepared to die rather than let this pass my home" says defiant protester". Irish Independent Herald. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Ryan, Áine (3 October 2006). "Shell enter Bellanaboy site". The Mayo News. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  5. ^ "Green Ministers urged to suspend Shell operation as Corduff arrested". An Phoblacht. Sinn Féin Weekly. 24 July 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  6. ^ Carr, Geraldine (26 June 2009). "Pobal Chill Chomáin meet with Norwegian Ambassador". Mayo Advertiser. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Willie Corduff: Small Family Farms, Big Oil Interests". The Goldman Environmental Prize. 2007. Retrieved 25 October 2007. 
  8. ^ Siggins, Lorna (5 May 2009). "Activists call for Corrib intervention". Irish Times. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  9. ^ "Grassroots Environmental Leaders From Around the World Win $125,000 Goldman Environmental Prize.". The Goldman Environmental Prize. 20 April 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  10. ^ Village magazine, July/August 2009
  11. ^ Taylor, Charlie (23 April 2009). "Protester claims he was beaten up". Irish Times. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  12. ^ Siggins, Lorna and Ryan, Áine (30 April 2009). "Ministers to speak on Corrib pipeline". Irish Times. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  13. ^ Grant, Harriet and Domokos, John (19 June 2009). "Fuelling the fury". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  14. ^ Siggins, Lorna; O'Malley, Teresa and Parsons, Michael (24 April 2009). "Corrib protesters urged to 'step back'". Irish Times. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  15. ^ 'Irish media failing over Rossport', Village magazine, June 2009
  16. ^ Tighe, Mark (5 July 2009). "Boat sinking claim denied". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 12 November 2009. 
  17. ^ Ryan, Áine (11 May 2009). "Archbishop Tutu speaks out on Corrib as seven are arrested: Nobel Peace Laureate and internationally renowned human rights activist, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has spoken out about the controversial Corrib gas controversy". The Mayo News. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "New inquiry into alleged assault urged". The Irish Times. 4 April 2010. 
  19. ^ http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/files/en/corrib_gas_report.pdf
  20. ^ http://www.donegaldemocrat.ie/donegalnews/TV-Eye.5775800.jp
  21. ^ RTÉ Would You Believe interview
  22. ^ Siggins, Lorna (30 October 2009). "Watchdog recommends disciplining senior garda". Irish Times. Retrieved 12 November 2009. 

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