Dublin: Elderly Former (MTL) Port Worker Faces Criminal Charges Over Industrial Dispute: UPDATE

13 Mar

NEWS UPDATE: Today- 16/03/2011

The ULA have protested outside Dublin District Court where a docklands worker appeared on charges under the Maritime Safety Acts.

A protest by members of the United Left Alliance has taken place outside Dublin District Court where a Dublin docklands worker appeared on charges under the Maritime Safety Act.

Gerard McDonnell, aged 63, is facing three charges under maritime law arising out of a protest at Dublin Port in 2009.

The court was told it is intended he be tried in the Circuit Court but the book of evidence was not ready.

Defence solicitor Chris Hourigan said the alleged offences dated back to 2009 and there was no reason why the book of evidence should not be ready.

Therefore he would only consent to a remand up to 1 April.

In the absence of an explanation from the prosecution the District Judge Judge Brian Smyth remanded Mr McDonnell on continuing bail to the 1 April.

BACKGROUND TO UPCOMING COURT CASE INVOLVING FORMER MTL STRIKER, AND CALL FOR SOLIDARITY

To all supporters/contacts

It is over a year since the strike at MTL/Peel ports ended. Following intervention from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) an agreement was brokered between the MTL and SIPTU, the trade union representing the workers. While jobs were saved as part of the settlement, some redundancies also took place. A no recriminations clause was an important part of the settlement.

Throughout the 8 month strike, support for the workers was tremendous. The local community, other workers, the trade union movement and political groups all played their part in protests and demonstrations to support the strike.  The role of the ITF was crucial, as was the solidarity of Dock workers around the world.

On the 27th of August 2009, a “floating picket” took place in Dublin Port, involving a small number of vessels.  On Wednesday next, 16th March one of the strikers is appearing in court, facing charges in relation to this event. Gerard MacDonnell (now aged 63) is facing 3 separate charges

(see details below). Gerard is contesting all charges.

Last summer, a number of former strikers were interviewed by the Gardai in relation to the “floating picket”, which had taken place the year before. Some of those questioned were visited at home, and one was approached by Gardai while working in MTL. A number of interviews took place following requests from the Gardai (and acting on legal advice). We were led to believe that this was the end of the matter. One of those interviewed was Gerard McDonnell senior.

Gerard was contacted by the Gardai and asked to present himself at the Bridewell on Friday 18th February, which he complied with. Here he was arrested, charged, and taken to the Court of Criminal Justice by van. Here he was briefly handcuffed and spent some time in a cell, before being brought before the court. This was a very short appearance, and a trial date of 16th March was set.

Details of the charges being faced by Gerard are set out below.

We understand that these charges could result in fines as high as 250,000 euros.  As stated above, Gerard is contesting all charges.

This is a very serious development that cannot go unchallenged. Gerard McDonnell is not a criminal; he is simply a worker who through no fault of his own found himself involved in a trade dispute. There is nothing to be served in dragging him through the courts, and there is nothing to be gained in raising tensions amongst Dublin Port workers. The MTL strike was long and difficult, and its resolution broadly welcomed. Since that time, much work has been done on improving industrial relations issues in the port This prosecution was not sought by the Dublin Port Company or MTL. The decision seems to have been taken by the Gardai alone, and their agenda in doing so is unclear.

It is important that the support for the Dublin Port Workers shown during the strike continues as long as anyone involved continues to be victimised. It is important that this attempt to criminalise a striking worker is highlighted as widely as possible, and it is vital that the question is asked as to why the Gardai and the Courts time is being wasted in this manner.

(See attached leaflet distributed in local community for details of demonstration in support of Gerard at his court appearance next week.)

An update on events at the court and any future events will be issued.

Joe Mooney

Dublin Port Workers Support Group

DETAILS OF CHARGES BEING FACED BY Gerard McDonnell

 

Charge one     that the accused/defendant,

On the 27/08/2009 at “The Fairway”, Entrance To Dublin Port, Dublin Port, Dublin 1   in the said District Court Area of Dublin Metropolitan District, while being the person in command of a vessel, namely Orkney Fastliner 19 did allow such vessel to impede and interfere with another vessel, namely Stena Line Nordica Vessel that was leaving a port, namely Dublin port.

Contrary to Section 37 (1) and (2) of the Maritime Safety Act, 2005.

Charge two   that the accused/defendant,

On the 27/08/2009 at “The Fairway”, Entrance To Dublin Port, Dublin Port, Dublin 1    in said District Court Area of Dublin Metropolitan District, did obstruct and impede the exercise of a power conferred on the harbour master of Dublin Port.

Contrary to Section 50 of the Harbours Act, 1996

Charge three     that the accused/defendant,

On the 27/08/2009 at “The Fairway”, Entrance to Dublin Port, Dublin Port, Dublin 1     in said District Court Area of Dublin Metropolitan District , did prevent a ship namely the ‘Stena Line Nordica’ navigating within Dublin port

Contrary to   Section 46 (1)  (e)  of the Harbours Act, 1996

 Maritime Safety Act 2005

For anyone interested , here are the relevant sections of the acts

Maritime Safety Act 2005

Non-interference with access to and from ports and harbours.

37. – (1) A vessel shall not, without lawful authority, impede or interfere with any other vessel lawfully entering or leaving or attempting to enter or leave, a port or harbour (including any approaches to, and waters within the confines of the port or harbour).

 (2) A person in command or in charge of a vessel which contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and is liable –

 (a)    On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000, or

(b)   On conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €250,000.

 (3) The prohibition under subsection (1) in relation to a vessel does not apply to a vessel in distress or out of control due to being in distress.

Harbours Act, 1996, Section 46

Power of harbour master to give certain directions.

46. – (1) The harbour master of a harbour may, subject to any bye-laws in force in relation to the harbour, give to the master of a ship using the harbour, such directions in connection with the user of the harbour as the harbour master thinks proper for the purpose of protecting persons and property or regulating traffic and, in particular, for the following purposes:

(a)    Regulating the time at which and the manner in which the ship may approach, enter into, go out of or lie in or at any part of the harbour and regulating the position, mooring, unmooring, placing or removing of the ship.

(b)   Regulating the dismantling of the ship.

(c)    Regulating the take and discharge of ballast in the ship.

(d)   Preventing the ship navigating within the harbour if the harbour master is of the opinion that it is or may become a danger to navigation.

(2) A direction given under this section shall not be repugnant to or inconsistent with any instrument made by the Revenue Commissioners under any enactment, a direction given by them under such an instrument or any enactment, or the law relating to customs.

(3) If the master of a ship refuses or fails to comply with a direction of a harbour master under this section or if a harbour master cannot find the master of a ship in relation to which he or she wishes to give a direction under this section-

(a) the harbour master may carry out the direction and do all things necessary for or incidental to that purpose, and

(b) the expenses incurred in so carrying out the direction shall be paid by the master of the ship to the company by whom the harbour master is employed and, in default of payment, shall be recoverable by the company from the master as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(4) If the master of a ship refuses or fails to comply with a direction under this section he or she shall be guilty of an offence.

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