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Shell to Sea protestor arrested

By: 
Shane Creevy - Politico.ie

Arrest comes as Shell To Sea campaign digs the sand in search for Corrib pipe. By Shane Creevy.

Maura Harrington, one of the organisers of the Shell to Sea protest against the Corrib Gas project in Mayo, has been arrested for the non-payment of a fine related to the disruption of Shell's work. This is the fifth time Maura Harrington has been jailed in 18 months. She previously went on hunger strike in protest at the Corrib Gas project. She is the third opponent of Shell's Corrib Gas project now in jail, following Pat O'Donnell and Niall Harnett.

Shell recently sent notifications to residents in the local area that drilling in the Sruwaddacon Estuary will begin in the coming days. Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said: “[Maura Harrington's] jailing is purely and simply timed to help Shell to undertake their destructive drilling in Sruwaddacon. The dangers [of drilling] we've seen very clearly with the Deepwater Horizon spill, as well as the giveaway of Ireland's natural resources, are the reasons why three campaigners are now stuck in prison”.

Front Line recently released a Human Rights report which clearly showed that the Gardai have not been equal and fair in their policing of the protests in this area," he said. "But they continue to do all they can to harass campaigners, while Shell's length of illegal pipe remains in Glengad.”

Shell was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, off Broadhaven Bay in Mayo, dozens of protesters are attempting to dig down to the pipe owned by Shell. A trench several feet in depth has already been dug in the sand and mud. Watching them is a team of security staff who work for Shell. The depth of the pipe is unknown, and therefore protesters don't know if they will reach it. And what they will do if it is reached is uncertain. However, they continue to dig as a symbolic sign of resistance.

Opposition to Shell has become a way of life for many here, including one of the Shell to Sea spokesmen, John O Donabhain. In an interview with Politico, O Donabhain was asked if there was contact between the Shell To Sea campaign and Shell itself.

“The forms of consultation that are supposedly open to us, like the North-West Mayo Forum, are shams," he said. "Their terms of reference exclude any meaningful discussion. [Shell has] a pact with business people from areas miles beyond here that this project doesn’t affect except for that they have a bit of business from it.”

So there is no consultation whatsoever?

“A consultation implies that somebody asks a question, you respond, and you have a conversation. But a consultation in Shell’s mind is a box to be ticked. It’s a propaganda tool."

O Donabhain criticised the media's negative portrayal of the protestors. He said the Irish Times generally offered fair coverage, but other outlets were less accurate. News organisations send crime correspondents to Rossport, he said, with the twofold effect of criminalising the peaceful protests and hyping the discussion in favour of Shell. He complained that very often the group here has been written off as an angry rural minority. But the recent Front Line report vindicated the protestors, he said.

In response to the Front Line report, the Shell To Sea campaign reiterated its call for a suspension of all work on the Corrib Project.