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Irish Times: Intervention urged in Corrib gas row

Oct 21, 2006
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind) has called on the Government to intervene in the Corrib gas dispute before someone is seriously hurt.

The situation at the Shell Corrib gas terminal is now akin to a “pressure cooker”, the TD said, following yesterday’s Shell to Sea “day of action” involving some 300 protesters at Bellanaboy.

The largest protest to date since Shell staff returned to work three weeks ago was marked by a tense atmosphere, with several scuffles and one arrest. However, Chief Supt Tony McNamara, head of the Garda’s Mayo division, paid tribute to Dr Cowley and Willie Corduff, one of the Rossport Five, for ensuring that the demonstration was “largely peaceful”.

Initially, some five gardaI at the terminal gates, backed up by colleagues at the crossroads 2km (1.24 miles) away, were deployed to ensure Shell workers had access before 8am.

By this stage, almost 200 supporters of Shell to Sea’s national campaign had arrived at the crossroads to show solidarity with over 100 members of the local community, who have been out demonstrating every morning since October 3rd – having already maintained a picket at the terminal for the past 15 months.

When some of the protesters strayed into the road to try and delay a convoy of jeeps carrying workers, they were moved back by gardaI and several scuffles broke out. However, Dr Cowley, Mr Corduff and several local Shell to Sea supporters appealed for calm.

One man was arrested and detained for two hours for allegedly causing criminal damage to Garda video equipment. Over the following two to three hours, after staff had begun work on site, protesters tried to delay lorries and other suppliers, and insults were hurled by a small number.

At one point, there was applause from the crowd when one objector climbed on top of a vehicle. Among a number of students who travelled were some 50 from University College Dublin, and at least 10 from NUI Galway.

Dr Cowley said that he reiterated his call earlier this week with TDs Joe Higgins (SP), and fellow Independents Tony Gregory and Seamus Healy for Shell to suspend work and protesters to withdraw while the Government engage in three-way talks. Such talks would have to include the location of the gas terminal if they were to be meaningful, as previous initiatives by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey had been too restrictive, he said.

Earlier this month, two engineers called on the Minister to commission Advantica consultants to look at the “optimum location” for the terminal.

Advantica was commissioned to undertake a safety review of the pipeline, but was not charged with examining the core issue, the terminal location, which is unsuitable, according to engineers Leo Corcoran, formerly of Bord Gais, and Brian Coyle of Coyle Kennedy, Galway.

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