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Fishermen refuse to make way for Solitaire

THE Mayo News

Fishermen refuse to make way for Solitaire


Fishermen refuse to move for Solitaire

Pipe-laying work may not be able to proceed, as gardaí call on protestors to ‘take a step back’

Áine Ryan

AS Shell prepares for the arrival of the world’s largest deep-water pipe-laying vessel, the Solitaire, it has emerged that the company may have no legal basis for removing the fishing gear of two north Mayo fishermen. If this gear remains in place in Broadhaven Bay, the Solitaire may be unable to carry out its work.

Meanwhile, following a number of incidents in the water in Glengad last week, which led to several arrests, and with the stand-off between Shell and protesting fishermen set to escalate when the Solitaire arrives, a Garda Superintendent last night deemed the Corrib gas protest ‘very volatile’ and called for protestors to ‘take a step back’.

Dublin-based solicitor, Mr Simon McGarr confirmed to The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that he has written to Shell’s solicitors asking them not to interfere with his clients’ – Pat and Jonathan O’Donnell – fishing gear in Broadhaven Bay.

Mr McGarr said that, following correspondence received by Mr O’Donnell last Wednesday, his company had requested Shell to detail the legal basis for the company’s suggested removal of their crab fishing gear to a safer location.

“Our clients have a licence to fish for crabs in Broadhaven Bay. They own property in the bay and make their livelihood from this. We have been in communication with McCann Fitzgerald [Shell’s solicitors] and asked them to undertake not to interfere with our clients’ property,” Mr Simon McGarr said.

He explained that their reply – which enclosed a copy of a letter to Pat O’Donnell saying they would move the gear to a safer location – simply cited the ministerial consents and the Marine Notices of the pipe-laying works.

“Neither of these documents is a legal basis for interfering with my clients’ pots. We have not had any legal basis cited to us,” said Mr McGarr.

Mr Pat O’Donnell also confirmed that Mr McGarr wrote to the Garda Commissioner yesterday (Monday) alerting him to the sequence of events. He also told The Mayo News last night that the Chief of Staff of the Naval Services had been contacted to protect his rights and he, and his son, will not be moving 800 crab pots from the bay.

“It is my understanding that I am protected by the law but I have been advised to stay close to my gear,” said Pat O’Donnell.

He said that three boats – The John Michelle, The James Collins and The Gem 1 (all about 10m or 36ft) – had taken the action after receiving a threatening letter from Shell on Wednesday last (August 20).

Survey and dredging work for the offshore pipeline is already under way in Broadhaven Bay, and the pipelaying 300m (984ft) Solitaire is expected to leave Killybegs and arrive in north Mayo waters tomorrow (Wednesday), weather permitting.

When contacted yesterday, Shell declined to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, Supt John Gilligan said his office was investigating a complaint about an alleged incident between local boats and Shell survey vessel, The Highland Navigator. He also called on protestors to ‘take a step back and to reflect’.

“Everybody concerned should reflect on actions already taken and actions that are possibly being considered. This is a very volatile time with construction on sea and the protests moving to sea. Protestors should take a step back,” said Supt Gilligan.

He emphasised that the priority of the Gardaí was to ensure public safety. Protests by Shell to Sea kayakers led to eight arrests already last Thursday (August 21).

The O’Donnells, along with a number of other fishermen, did not support an agreement signed between Shell and the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, offering compensation in return for co-operation. They say they fear the refinery’s outfall pipe will have a negative environmental impact on their fishing grounds.

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