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Irish Times: Shell to Sea says it did ‘not sanction’ site break-in

Published: Feb 17, 2007

The Shell to Sea campaign in north Mayo has dissociated itself from a security breach involving over 100 protesters at the Corrib gas terminal site, write Lorna Siggins and Tom Shiel in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo

The incursion, which lasted over two hours yesterday, has been condemned by Shell E&P Ireland, while Mayo TD, Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind), said it was “very disappointing” in the light of efforts to have a peaceful protest.

Shell to Sea spokesman in north Mayo, Dr Mark Garavan, said the actions by a “number of individuals” had not been sanctioned by the campaign, which had sought Garda co-operation for a peaceful “solidarity day”.

The Rossport five and most of the residents involved in the campaign had not participated in the incursion.

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, who was under Garda escort during a visit to the Marine Institute in Co Galway yesterday, said he had no comment to make on the events at the terminal site.

An estimated 400 people took part in the solidarity day which began at 7.30am and involved supporters travelling in buses from Dublin, Belfast and Galway.

A group of yellow-jacketed stewards from the Shell to Sea organisation co-operated with a force of about 40 gardaI in keeping the main Belmullet to Glenamoy road clear. Shell staff had been escorted to work an hour earlier than normal, at 6.30am.

The Al Jazeera English language television service was among media outlets present for the “solidarity walk”. The marchers were accompanied by musicians, many of them carrying improvised instruments made from pieces of wood and plastic containers.

The group had left the area at about 10am to view films in Glenamoy when over 100 returned and entered the terminal site.

Shell E&P Ireland spokesman John Egan branded the group as “trespassers”, and claimed that they vandalised tools and threatened construction workers. “This again shows that the Shell to Sea rhetoric about peaceful protest is simply untrue.” The company issued a statement in which it said that the protesters had “subjected construction workers to extreme verbal abuse and personal intimidation”.

However, school principal Maura Harrington, who participated in the incursion, said that Shell was “lying” about damage to equipment. “The only damage being done to Bellanaboy is by Shell,” she said.

Any verbal exchanges with Shell staff and contractors was not abusive, she said.

The group had agreed to leave the area for health and safety reasons at the request of Garda Supt Joe Gannon. The action was “spontaneous” and not pre-planned, she said. “We have lost all faith in State monitoring of this site and wanted to see for ourselves, and lack of security is one of the issues we have highlighted by this.”

Dubliner Tadhg McGrath injured his arm on the site. The protester said construction workers had caused his injury by pushing a door from inside as he tried to walk into a building.

Mr McGrath described the attitude of some site workers as “hostile”. On leaving by the main gate, the group was cheered by supporters who beat loudly on samba drums and pounded on the security fence with sticks and other implements.

Earlier, Mayo Sinn Fein councillor Gerry Murray criticised the selling off of national resources to gas and oil exploration companies 20 years ago.

He hit out at the Garda for upholding the interests of Shell and the Norwegian government rather than the common good.

Tanaiste Michael McDowell has quoted the cost of policing the site from last October to late January at 3.14 million.

 

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