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The Sunday Times: Gardai gear up for fresh anti-Shell protests at Bellanaboy

November 19, 2006
Aine Ryan
 
GARDAI are preparing for another confrontation with anti-Shell protesters in Mayo this Friday following the announcement by Shell to Sea that a “solidarity day” will be held at Bellanaboy, site of the proposed Corrib gas refinery.

Chief Superintendent Tony McNamara said gardai are concerned about the planned protest. “It is going to draw further on reserves of gardai from all around the country,” he said. 
 
“The 78 gardai available for duty on a daily basis were supplemented by another 50 from the Mayo division for the last day of action. And because of the level of disruption that day, there will be even more gardai there next Friday.”

McNamara refused to reveal further detail on garda operational strategy but he dismissed media claims that the use of batons by officers on November 10 had been sanctioned at cabinet level.

“The decision to use batons was an operational matter. It was decided upon by the local superintendent (Joe Gannon) as events unfolded,” McNamara said.

Anti-Shell protesters were asked three times to clear the roads, and when they refused, Gannon ordered one sergeant and seven gardai “to tactically use their batons. I wouldn’t call it a baton charge, it was very measured”.

McNamara argued that since protesters were blocking 130 workers from getting to work, the only way to resolve the matter was “by force”. He confirmed that there had been no incidents at the daily protest since the so-called Battle of Bellanaboy 10 days ago.

Mark Garavan, a spokesman for Shell to Sea, said the group is “determined there will not be a repeat of the scenes”.

“We were absolutely appalled by what happened and we intend to ensure that Friday’s gathering will pass off without incident,” he promised.

Shell is to hold two open days in the Broadhaven Bay hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Terry Nolan, Shell Ireland’s deputy managing director, said: “There will be an update on the progress towards identifying a modified pipeline route.”
 
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2091-2460092,00.html

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