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The Mayo News: Shell to Sea shows clear cracks

Tuesday, 20 February 2007 

Áine Ryan

LEADING Shell to Sea activist, Maura Harrington, has denied a significant split has developed within the campaign after a group of protestors entered the proposed Shell refinery site after last Friday’s Solidarity Day in Bellanaboy. This is despite a clear condemnation of the incursion by campaign spokespeople, Mary Corduff, Dr Mark Garavan and Vincent McGrath. 

“Rather than call it a split, it would properly be called diversity. There is one element of the campaign that has a more narrow version of what constitutes peaceful protest and another element is committed to NVDA [Non-Violent Direct Action],” stated Ms Harrington. She  was among the protestors, the majority of whom were apparently visitors to the area, who entered the Shell property.

They were accused afterwards by Shell of behaving in an ‘aggressive’ and ‘intimidating’ way  during their two-hour sojourn on the property, thus debunking the campaign’s ‘rhetoric about peaceful protests’.

“Today’s illegal trespass of the Bellanaboy Gas Terminal by approximately 100 Shell to Sea protestors was not peaceful. The protestors vandalised tools and equipment on the site and subjected construction workers to extreme verbal abuse and personal intimidation. It was a very threatening and regrettable experience for the workers involved,” said Shell spokeswoman, Ms Susan Shannon.

Ms Harrington strongly challenged Shell’s claims of damage, and she also denied there was any ‘sinister plot’ to enter the property. She stressed ‘it was a spontaneous action’, despite the fact that The Mayo News was aware through ‘word on the ground’ from around 9am on Friday morning there would be a possible breach of security and that Ms Harrington would be involved.

The Mayo News has also learned there was strong support for Ms Harrington’s actions at last Sunday’s weekly Shell to Sea meeting. However, it has emerged there was a large contingent of activists from around the country in attendance.

“I distance myself from the actions of going on to the site last Friday morning. It wasn’t planned at our local meeting,” said Mary Corduff, wife of Rossport Five’s Willie, a prominent steward at the Solidarity Day.

Vincent McGrath also told The Mayo News that he and Mr Niall King, both retired teachers, had been charged with drafting and presenting a letter of declared intentions to the Gardaí, regarding the Solidarity walk.

“There was an incident after the walk that did not reflect the wishes of the meeting or the mood or intention of the rally. The purpose of the rally was to highlight our health and safety concerns and the imposition of projects on a small community. Because of the incidents afterwards the focus has been taken from that,” said Vincent McGrath.

He added the campaign was grateful that the incursion had been peaceful, but stressed that local people intended keeping the direction of the protest under their control.

Dr Mark Garavan, who recently declared his intention to run for the Senate, also stated the actions of ‘a number of people’  had not been sanctioned. He was not present at the Solidarity walk.

A Shell to Sea national rally will be held on Saturday next, February 24, in Dublin. Assembly is at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square.

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