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International Herald Tribune: Irish police arrest 3 as protesters try to block construction of Shell natural-gas refinery

The Associated Press
Published: November 9, 2007

DUBLIN, Ireland: Several hundred police overpowered about 300 protesters Friday as they tried to block construction of a natural-gas processing plant in remote western Ireland.

Three protesters were arrested and another was hospitalized as officers cleared away a sit-down protest at the gates of Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s planned refinery in the unpopulated bogland of Bellanaboy in County Mayo, police said.

Shell to Sea, a protest group that has mounted several similar protests since construction of the Bellanaboy facility began 13 months ago, said a truck carrying Shell workers ran over a protester’s foot.

The group vowed to keep trying to hamper the construction work all day. Its protest was timed to coincide with the 12th anniversary of Nigeria’s execution of nine anti-Shell campaigners, including writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Anti-globalization activists have struggled in vain to persuade the government to withdraw support for the Shell project in Ireland, a long-booming country that is highly dependent on imported fuel.

The Green Party, which opposed the project while in opposition, has accepted it since joining the government in June.

Shell is building a pipeline to deliver raw natural gas from the Corrib field, which was discovered in 1996 about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off northwest Mayo, to Bellanaboy.

Shell and its junior development partners — Norway’s StatoilHydro ASA and U.S.-based Marathon Oil Corp. — had hoped to launch production this year, but delays from protests and regulatory reviews have pushed the launch to mid-2008.

Corrib gas could transform the Irish market. Ireland depends on British imports to meet about 85 percent of its natural gas, which in turn is used to produce most of Ireland’s electricity.

Shell estimates Corrib gas could provide more than half of Ireland’s needs for the next 15 to 20 years.

In 2004, campaigners began demanding that Shell reroute the pipeline away from a coastal hamlet called Rossport. Their effort captured national attention and much public sympathy in 2005, when five Rossport men spent 94 days in jail for ignoring a court order barring them from the pipeline construction site.

In August 2006, Shell accepted a mediator’s recommendation to shift the route of the 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) onshore portion of the pipeline away from Rossport.

All that did was move the focal point for protests to the refinery site, which Shell to Sea insists should be built instead on an Atlantic platform.

Shell says this is illogical, arguing that the deep seas involved would require a structure the height of New York’s Empire State Building and expose refinery workers to needless helicopter trips and other dangers from frequent gale-force storms.

On the Net:

Shell Ireland background on Corrib on-shore gas processing,

Shell to Sea protesters, and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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