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Irish Times: GardaI expected to break blockade at Corrib gas site

By: Tom Shiel, Irish Times
Published: Oct 02, 2006

A large force of gardaI is being mobilised to force entry this week to the Corrib gas terminal site in Co Mayo which has been blockaded by protesters for more than a year.

Picketers who successfully thwarted an attempt by gardaI to gain entry for about 80 workers to the proposed terminal area at Bellanaboy on Tuesday last, have since been maintaining a round the clock vigil at the main entrance to the site.

But they have been warned by Supt Joseph Gannon, officer in charge of the Belmullet Garda District, that the law of the land must be upheld and the safe passage of work crews onto the site will be facilitated by the security forces.

GardaI seemed to have been taken unawares last week when the group of about 100 protesters began loudly chanting the Rosary. There were no attempts at arrests and the work convoy, on the instructions of gardaI, retreated.

Shell to Sea protesters, who said their actions last week were “a clear victory for people power using the respectful application of prayer”, are now bracing themselves for an imminent attempt by gardaI to impose their authority and break the blockade.

Business interests in the west called at the weekend for an immediate end to delays in delivering the Corrib gas project and insisted that employees and contractors must be allowed to begin work on the project immediately.

John Brennan, west regional director of the employers’ group IBEC, said: “While people have the right to peaceful protest, employees and contractors also have the right to gain access to their place of work.”

Mr Brennan added: “The case for delivering the project is clear. It is of vital national and regional importance. It has full planning permission. All relevant government consents are in place and the recent report by Peter Cassells highlighted that the majority of people are in favour.”

Mr Brennan said the Corrib gas project will deliver massive national and regional benefits, providing a safe and secure energy supply for many years to come. Ireland is 90 per cent dependent on imported gas, exposing users to risks of supply interruption and price volatility, he added. At full production Corrib will meet over 60 per cent of national demand during the initial years of operation and has a field life of over 15 years.

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