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Two Shell objectors arrested at sea

Gardaí patrolling the shoreline at the Shell Glengad site in Co Mayo yesterday.
Photograph: Peter Wilcock

IRISH TIMES

LORNA SIGGINS, Marine Correspondent

TWO FISHERMEN opposed to the laying of the Corrib gas offshore pipeline have been arrested at sea, just hours before the Shell contracted pipelaying ship Solitaire was due to arrive at the site.

The arrests took place about 8am yesterday in Broadhaven Bay.

Pat O’Donnell and his son Jonathan were on separate vessels when they were arrested.Mr O’Donnell said he was injured during the arrest, and gardaí confirmed he was taken by Ballyglass lifeboat, and by ambulance, to Castlebar General Hospital.

Jonathan O’Donnell later appeared before Westport District Court on public order offences. He has been remanded in custody to Castlerea prison but is due to appear in the High Court today.

Their vessels were towed in to Ballyglass pier and detained by gardaí under the Maritime Safety Act.

The incident came after Pat O’Donnell, who is a Shell to Sea supporter, spoke to gardaí about them protecting his shellfish gear if so requested. Earlier this week, gardaí confirmed they had held discussions about protection.

Shell to Sea said yesterday that the arrests “make a mockery of guarantees made by the gardaí on Tuesday to protect Pat, Jonathan and two other fishermen while they are going about their work”.

The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association has also expressed “grave concern” about yesterday’s event. Association members were meeting last night as a result of the arrests and to discuss a hitch in an agreement made with Shell to facilitate the offshore pipelaying work.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said Shell will have to reapply for a new emissions licence if it wishes to make changes to its discharge pipe from the Corrib gas refinery.

Shell had promised fishermen that technical amendments to the licence would be made in return for the association’s co-operation.

Yesterday’s arrests at sea are the latest in a series of incidents which Shell to Sea spokesman Terence Conway claims are designed to “intimidate Mr O’Donnell, his two brothers and son”.

Mr O’Donnell, who runs a shellfish company in north Mayo and received a State marine award for his part in the 1997 Belderrig cave rescue, has been vocal in his concern about the impact on the marine environment of the Corrib gas refinery discharge pipe.

He says he was assaulted during Corrib gas protests at Bellanaboy in late 2006 and a complaint was submitted to the Garda Ombudsman Commission. Last year, he refused to sign up to an agreement between Shell and Erris fishermen to remove gear temporarily to facilitate laying of the offshore pipe.

He was arrested twice last summer while, he says, he was attempting to protect his fishing gear during Shell’s offshore pipeline work. He was released shortly before a court challenge to his arrest.

While Shell holds a foreshore licence for the offshore pipelaying work, the O’Donnells hold fishing licences and cannot be compelled to leave the sea area.

Earlier this month, Mr O’Donnell’s boat, Iona Isle, was sunk off Erris Head after an alleged boarding by four men, two of whom held Mr O’Donnell and crewman Martin McDonnell in the wheelhouse.

A letter delivered to the O’Donnells by Shell two days ago requested them to remove their gear or the company might be obliged to do so.

Several hundred gardaí, backed up by Naval Service staff and Shell’s security company Integrated Risk Management Services, have been drafted into Glengad, the landfall for the offshore pipeline which is due to be laid from Broadhaven Bay out to the wellhead.

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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