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Sellafield a bigger threat than any maritime vessel in our waters

13 May, 2004

Speaking in the Dáil today on the Maritime Security Bill, Sinn Féin TD for Louth, Arthur Morgan, warned against the rush to protect vessels while possibly curtailing human and civil rights at the same time.

Deputy Morgan said:

"While I appreciate that there needs to be proper protection of vessels and marine installations, I am not satisfied that there is some vast new problem that requires to be addressed by a raft of new security legislation.

"Others have referred to the new dangers since the awful events in New York and Madrid, but I would be concerned that those events are being used to serve as the pretext for legislation that I fail to see would have prevented either of those atrocities taking place. As Amnesty International pointed out last year, the so-called 'War on Terror' was being used to curtail human rights, undermine international law and increase the level of fear and suspicion between different peoples. As with the abuses in Iraqi prisons, the point is that while states do need to protect themselves against threats, they do not have the right to undermine human rights in the process.

"There are situations where people could find themselves subject to the sanctions recommended in this Bill by their participation in legitimate acts of protest. For example, if a group of workers were to go on strike on an off-shore exploration platform, and that dispute was to develop into an occupation, would such persons then be considered to be in contravention of this section and depicted as terrorists? Would it allow a company like Shell or Marathon to invoke this legislation in the event of an industrial dispute off shore? Would people engaged in protest or direct actions against ships carrying war materials or nuclear materials come under the terms of the above? I myself have taken part in protests against Sellafield, and Greenpeace have attempted to physically obstruct vessels carrying noxious materials from Sellafield through the Irish Sea. If such an action was to be successful to the extent of the protestors boarding such a vessel and preventing it carrying its deadly cargo further, would that be considered an act of terror?

"Some speakers in the Seanad referred to the possibility of a terrorist attack on Sellafield and the prospects of this Bill preventing such an occurrence. I fail to see how this Bill would prevent it. But surely this is to miss the point of the danger that Sellafield presents. We might not be able to prevent some lunatic deciding to crash a plane into it, but we can and should be doing something about the danger it currently poses. And that is to pressurise the British Government to close the place down." ENDS

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