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News release: Two years of destructive tunnel work begin with attacks on protesters

News Release - Issued by Shell to Sea
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011


-- Days of Action called for Friday 1st April & Saturday 2nd April --

Shell has begun work on its controversial tunnel under Sruwaddacon Estuary in north Mayo, with Gardai and security staff attacking and injuring protesters within hours of work commencing on Tuesday morning. Several people received medical attention including one campaigner who has been referred to hospital with suspected broken ribs, as a result of an IRMS security guard stamping on the campaigners chest on the ground. Work was also delayed for several hours by protesters.

Throughout Tuesday, campaigners repeatedly delayed work by blocking access to the compound site. Protests were broken up by Gardai and private security.

Hundreds of supporters from around Ireland are expected to travel to the area in the coming days and weeks in response to a call-out from local residents to help obstruct work on a tunneling compound at Aughoose. The 5km tunnel is scheduled to take 26 months to build, involving unprecedented disruption to local communities.

The work has started despite High Court proceedings being initiated by An Taisce and Erris residents against January’s An Bord Pleanála decision to allow the onshore section of the pipeline.

Work had to cease overnight (Tues-Wed) as a member of the Rossport Solidarity Camp locked herself to the underside of a vehicle that had been placed at the entrance to the site by IRM-S. She locked on at 6.30pm on Tuesday and was finally removed at 9am on Wednesday and arrested. She was released without charge shortly after.  She had on her person An Taisce documents detailing all the breaches of EU law posed by the proposed onshore pipeline and tunnel.

Another campaigner was also arrested from the roof of his own van while trying to video the protests. He was also later released without charge.

Shell to Sea spokesperson and local resident Terence Conway said: “Now is the time for supporters to come to Erris. Time is of the essence. As expected, Shell is starting with huge fortifications around its planned tunneling compound in Aughoose. We need to stop them erecting these fences.”

Shell to Sea spokesperson and local resident Maura Harrington said: “This work represents the final attempt by Shell to drive a highly dangerous, experimental, unrefined raw gas pipeline through North Erris. Several other pipelines routes have been successfully resisted by the communities here.”

“Shell and the Government hope to get away with forcing this project through on the pretext that it is somehow vital to the national interest. In fact, Irish people will be buying this gas at the same price we currently pay for gas from Norway.  The State will earn very little from either Corrib or future oil and gas fields in Irish waters, unless the Government changes Ireland’s licensing terms.”

Construction of the tunnel will involve up to 472 truck movements per day, according to Shell’s presentation to last year’s Bord Pleanála hearing. These will be on roads so narrow in places that two cars can barely pass each other.

Shell to Sea has called for human rights organisations such as Front Line and Amnesty International to send observers to the area as soon as possible. 


Details of Shell’s proposed work schedule:’s-proposed-work-schedule


Terence Conway 086 0866264

Maura Harrington 087 9591474



Shell to Sea is a national campaign with active groups based across Ireland. The Shell to Sea campaign has three main aims:

1) To renegotiate the terms of the Great Oil and Gas Giveaway, which sees Ireland’s 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent* off the West Coast go directly to the oil companies, with the Irish State retaining a 0% share, no energy security of supply and only 25% tax on profits against which all costs can be deducted.

2) To have the Corrib gas field exploited in a safe way that will not expose the local community in Erris to unnecessary environmental, health and safety risks.

3) To seek justice for the human rights abuses suffered by Shell to Sea campaigners due to their opposition to Shell’s proposed inland refinery. 

*This figure is based on the estimate, issued by the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) in 2006, that the amount of gas and oil in the Rockall and Porcupine basins, off Ireland’s west coast, is 10 BBOE (billion barrels of oil equivalent).

Based on the average price of a barrel of oil for 2010 of $79, this works out at $790 billion, or €580 billion. This does not take account of further oil and gas reserves off Ireland’s south coast or inland. The total volume of oil and gas which rightfully belongs to Ireland could be significantly higher. Also, as the global price of oil rises in the coming years, the value of these Irish natural resources will rise further.