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Irish Independent: Protesters use prayers to block gas line workers

Published: Sep 27, 2006

A CHORUS of prayers drowned out the words of a garda superintendent yesterday as he demanded access for about 60 workers at the site of the proposed Corrib Gas terminal in Co Mayo.

Some 100 protesters loudly recited the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for up to 15 minutes until Supt Joseph Gannon, officer in charge of the Belmullet garda district, ordered work crews to leave the area.

It is understood that Shell, who expressed “extreme disappointment” at the continued blockade, will try again in the next few days to enter the site, possibly backed up by increased garda numbers or even Army members.

Work on the terminal area was abandoned more than a year ago due to ongoing blockades and a desire by Shell to allow conciliation to take place.

The company says that it is now too late in the season to remove peat but that preparatory civil engineering work needs to be undertaken to allow peat haulage to resume next spring.

Yesterday’s objectors, many of them carrying Rosary beads as well as placards, broke off from praying to cheer after the pull-out by the work crew, who had arrived in a convoy of jeeps and vans.

Three of the five men who spent 94 days in jail last year for their opposition to the onshore gas pipeline participated in the protest with their families.

One of them, Willie Corduff, who carried a rosary beads in one hand, and was accompanied by his wife, Mary, said: “We’re here for the long haul. We are protecting our families and our homes. We don’t want Shell in here. Shell will have to go to sea.”

A whistle had sounded at 7.45am summonsing protestors, many of them women and teenagers, to their picket positions at the main entrance.

Minutes later, Supt Gannon arrived, accompanied by garda officers.

He informed the protesters that workers employed by Shell contractors would be arriving within 10 minutes and they had a right to go about their business unhindered.

When about 12 vehicles containing workers arrived in a convoy, the objectors, loudly reciting the rosary, blocked their way. Supt Gannon’s voice was drowned out by the prayer chorus.

Contractors denied access to the site expressed their frustration over yesterday’s developments.

Jim Mulcair, director of Roadbridge Limited, said that he had 80 workers who were hoping to begin preparatory civil engineering work on the terminal site.

“They are mostly local people from Erris and they will have to be laid off if they cannot get in to do their work in the proposed terminal area,” Mr Mulcair said.

Another contractor, TJ Carey, who runs a small plant hire enterprise in Bangor Erris, said: “It is past time we were allowed back onto the site. There is quite an amount of intimidation and verbal abuse over this issue.”

Commenting on the blockade, Shell’s Mayo-based deputy managing director, Terry Nolan, said: “We have taken every reasonable step over the past year to address the concerns around the Corrib project.

“It is regrettable that, despite this, local protesters and others from outside the area have prevented our staff and local contractors from going to work today.”

Mr Nolan added: “I do not believe the protesters represent the views of the wider community in Erris.

“A small number of people who are unwilling to enter into reasonable dialogue should not be allowed to prevent work on the Bellanaboy gas terminal from recommencing.”

Tom Shiel

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