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Seven face court after protesters clash with gardai

The Independent

By Tom Brady, Jason O’Brien and Tom Shiel

Monday May 11 2009

SEVEN men are to appear in court following clashes between gardai and Shell to Sea demonstrators at the site of the controversial Corrib gas pipeline.

The men — ranging in age from their late teens to mid-40s — were arrested during a protest by the group in Glengad in Mayo on Saturday night.

The protest was attended by a number of senior republican activists, including former IRA bomber Jim ‘Mortar’ Monaghan.

The charges include public order offences, criminal damage, obstruction and possession of offensive weapons, and the seven are due before Ballina District Court on Wednesday.

Around 150 protesters from the Shell to Sea campaign, including men, women and children, were involved in the demonstration, which began at 7pm.

As well as Jim Monaghan, the protestors included republican supporter Rose Dugdale, who was involved in the original theft of the Beit art haul from Russborough House, outside Blessington, Co Wicklow.

Weaponry

Monaghan was one of the ‘Colombia Three’ and was convicted by the Colombian courts of taking part in the training of Farc guerillas in weaponry and explosives.

They arrived together on Saturday and took part in the protest but were not involved in the clashes nor the failed attempt to remove security fencing.

Some of the protesters carried ropes, cables, chains and grappling hooks and they marched to the perimeter of a compound near the shoreline at Glengad where several attempted to to pull down the fence.

Online notices of the protest last week had stated that one of the main aims was to remove the fencing.

However, after clashes with gardai they failed to pull down the fencing, their equipment was confiscated and seven of the demonstrators were arrested.

The protesters claimed the fencing has been erected without planning permission, but Shell EP Ireland maintains that all necessary consents have been given for the development.

A Shell to Sea spokeswoman said they would “be back every weekend from now on, and at any time, day or night”.

A garda spokesman confirmed yesterday that there was no breach of the compound on Saturday night, and that neither protesters nor gardai had been injured.

Superintendent Michael Larkin said the gardai fully recognised the right of people to protest. But he added that some people had arrived at the protest with the “clear intent” of causing criminal damage.

He said the seven men were arrested for public order offences. A large garda presence remained at the site for the rest of the night but there were no further incidents.

A further protest planned for yesterday was called off after the tragic car accident in which local garda, Terry Dever, based at Belmullet, and Stephen Conway (19) were killed.

Tensions over the pipeline have intensified in recent weeks after construction recommenced following a winter break. Last month a masked gang entered the site late at night armed with chains and iron bars and commandeered a mechanical digger, which they used to damage the security fence.

The Solitaire, the world’s largest pipelaying vessel, is due in Mayo waters this summer to begin laying the offshore pipeline, which will connect Glengad to the Corrib field.

– Tom Brady, Jason O’Brien and Tom Shiel

SOURCE ARTICLE

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