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The Sunday Times: Kenny hits out at Shell protesters: ‘Battle of Bellanaboy’: ‘extremely violent resistance’

November 12, 2006
Colin Coyle
 
FOLLOWING last Friday’s Battle of Bellanaboy, during which anti-Shell protesters were baton-charged by gardai, Enda Kenny has come down firmly on the side of law and order.

The Fine Gael leader, who is also a TD for Mayo, yesterday made his most telling comments to date on the ongoing protests by some of his constituents at the Shell terminal. 
 
Speaking at a trade union conference in Dundalk, Kenny said he had heard “shocking reports” about the activities of some of the protesters campaigning against the construction of a Shell terminal at the Corrib site.

Kenny called on local demonstrators to disassociate themselves from “aggressive influences from the outside”. He said the rights of people to protest lawfully must be balanced with the rights of others to go to work.

“The safety of both the gardai and protesters is being put at risk and it appears that this violence is being orchestrated by outside forces who have no connection with the local community,” he said.

Kenny also criticised demonstrators for “tying up significant garda resources at a time when they are badly needed elsewhere” and hoped it will be possible to “negotiate an agreed rerouting of the gas pipeline which addresses the concerns of the local community”.

He had previously criticised Shell’s handling of the project, saying that the company was “not as open as it should have been” and that “the community was not as involved as it should have been”. Kenny has previously been criticised by anti-Shell activists for not attending their meetings and rallies in support of the so-called Rossport Five.

Politicians in Mayo have to tread a fine line between appealing to local anti-Shell sentiment and supporting the company’s right to bring gas ashore from the Corrib site.

Tim Collins, a local Fianna Fail councillor, has broken ranks with government policy and called on ministers to intervene. “This is a most serious situation. I feel for the decent people of Erris who need to be cared for, rather than being batoned, and there has to be a solution that does not involve force,” he said.

Mary Corduff, a protester, said Friday’s demonstrations, which featured unprecedented violence, were community-driven and did not involve agitation by Sinn Fein. “There were very few outsiders,” she said. “Most of the protesters were local.”

A spokesman for Shell said “an angry, violent mob was bussed in”.

One Shell-to-Sea protester is in hospital after the most violent clashes to date between gardai and demonstrators since Shell resumed work at the terminal last month. Ed Collins from Pollathomas was admitted to the orthopaedic unit of Mayo general hospital in Castlebar on Friday with leg and back injuries after plunging down a steep ditch after a scuffle with two female gardai. Collins, in his sixties and a daily fixture at the dawn protests, is said to be “badly injured” and in pain.

Shell-to-Sea campaigners claim that 30 people required medical assistance after Friday’s “day of action” descended into a running battle between 130 gardai and 200 protesters. Two gardai, including a female officer, were injured. Two protesters were arrested but released without charge.

Bertie Ahern, the taoiseach, has defended the gardai’s handling of the situation, saying that “the rule of law has to be implemented”.

The gardai insisted their response was “very restrained” in the face of “extremely violent resistance”.
 
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-2449936.html

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