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Speaker tells of stirrings in Rossport

Leona Nally - Maynooth Advocate News

We sit and watch protesters in groups, some lying on a road, some standing at the side. All there for the same reason. We watch the gardaí as they carry out their duties of picking people up off the road and throwing them over the side of a ditch, or dragging them to the side of the road by their legs. The jeeps arrive, and the real fun begins. As protesters stand in front of the jeeps, Gardaí push them out of the way. We hear a sound that can best be described as 'clunk' and are told that it is the noise of a protester being hit over the head with a loudspeaker by a garda. We see a man lying in a ditch with another man standing over him demanding that a Garda call an ambulance. The speaker, Mr John Monaghan, pauses the tape and tells us that a Bean Garda and a protester fell into the ditch, the Gardaí helped her out but left the protester screaming in pain. He was complaining of back pain a tingling in his legs. According to Mr. Monaghan it was 45 minutes before the ambulance was called. He then continues the tape. The ambulance arrives and we see them trying to help the injured protester. The ambulance leaves because it is unsafe, we are told by the speaker. We then watch as the Gardaí form a barricade. A Sergeant calls out over the speakers "This is your last opportunity before I deploy force" "second warning before I deploy force" "final warning before I deploy force". As a barricade of protesters faces a barricade of police, the latter produce batons and stride forward. Most of the Gardaí are simply shoving and pushing the protesters out of the way, with a few seen to be prodding and poking with batons. We see very clearly a face who John Monaghan tells us is Sgt. Conor O Reilly, a member of the special branch. This is the face of the man who trains the Gardaí in Templemore how to deal with crowd control. We see him whipping the legs of the protesters with a baton which Monaghan tells us is a telescopic baton, something which is illegal in this country. This video was recorded on the last day of action, the 10th of November 2006. The official statement from the Gardaí is that there was no Garda presence that day.

John Monaghan, a local resident in the Rossport area, tells us that it's not every day that the batons come out, but protests are every week day, and there has been some level of abuse since the 3rd of October 2006 when the Gardaí made their first appearance on the scene. The Gardaí are acting like 'school-yard bullies', according to Monaghan, their response to the arguments of the protesters is simply 'Garda action'. They could be arrested for willful obstruction, and the failure to comply, but there is no judicial process happening. They are just receiving brutality, Monaghan tells us. And yet their campaign is far away from Garda brutality, it is against the 'project'. This project which is between Shell and the Irish government is a sign of the state failing to protect it's citizens.

One of the 40 interested listeners asked what were the five originally jailed for? Monaghan tells us that the original plan was to have the pipeline 9 miles from the coast. People were arrested for opposing this. The men kept pushing An Bord Pleanála for information on what was actually happening and Shell called for an injunction. The decision fell on the High Court Judge, who granted the injunction while admitting he wasn't sure if he was doing the right thing. They were arrested for breaching a temporary injunction, and Shell still refuse to produce documents proving they have the right to do the work.

Has anyone taken a brutality plaint against the guards? According to Monaghan, a few have done so, but it has made very little difference. They have been told an ombudsman is being put in place, and so many of the protesters are waiting for this move before bothering to complain. Some of the Gardaí show clearly that they do not wish to be there, standing with tears in their eyes. "I'd say about half don't want to be there. The other half is split into a group who don't really care, and a group that want to kick the shit out of people. But it's important to remember that they are not the enemy, the project is"

What are the immediate concerns of the campaign?
There are two major current issues: to stop the Corrib Gas Project as natural resources are being stolen; and they don't want this project going through communities. Shell to sea want it moved offshore, or at least on the shoreline. "If we manage to claim the gas back, it's a bonus", Monaghan tells us. A Bord Pleanála inspector wrote a report, and in his conclusion said that Ballinaboy was the wrong site. There would be a serious amount of environmental impact. The planned pipe lies in the catchment area for Corinmore lake, which is the drinking supply for 10, 000 people. This would be a major concern, along with other issues such as hole venting, general flaring and immediate deterioration of air quality. Waste is being deposited in a nearby bay, effecting fish and dolphins, potentially destroying what was a significantly clean area for marine.

Are there any plans to use the general election, put politicians under pressure, etc? "For sure, we have our high profile 'pet TD', Joe Crowley who has supported Shell to Sea", Monaghan replies. "They're stealing our natural resources, so it is a national issue, but our focus at the moment is local."

Is there anything happening in Dublin?
Yes, the 24th of February there will be a march in Dublin, but at the moment they're focusing on the 16th of February, where there will be a Day of Solidarity in Ballinaboy. "Marching is all well and good, but how many people marched in anti-war? They give two fingers to the UN and go ahead with it anyway. We need action on the ground. If making your disapproval known is all we do, they'll do what they want. Judicial proceedings take years, and Shell have billions to spend on lawyers. Democracy is failing. Private companies taking over your land for their profit purely, not the state as before, is a totally new thing. What will happen next? These are very dangerous times, do we accept this, or do we reject it? This is the first time a compulsory acquisition order has been given to a private company, and by mistake. Signing over peoples land to a private company is against the law. and They knew, so they changed the law."

Under what conditions has the compulsory acquisition order been given?
"Under IFA compulsory rates, which has some conditions. You still own the land, and they are given use of about 40m of fields, so about half of your land. They would pay you €35 per metre, so some farmers would be making about 900-1000. What they're not told, is that if you don't give permission, they go ahead and use it anyway. They tell you they'll build a road, and a pipe. Eventually they'll take the road away, but the land will probably be reeds afterwards, which is what they don't tell you. They also don't tell you that if the pipe explodes, it's your responsibility. The gas pipeline also has adjoining pipelines carrying hydraulic fluid, cleansing acids, and a waste pipe. There will also be electric cables. This is a high pressure pipeline, 345 bar pressure for the gas, 610 bar pressure for the acids and hydraulic fluid. It is untreated, that is, odourless, without the added smell for detecting leaks. This is not the normal run of the mill gas pipeline. In Kinsale the gas is refined at sea, piped ashore at a much lower pressure and odorised. The biggest Bord Gais pipelines, in the so-called Transmission network, bringing the gas cross-country or overseas, run at 16 – 70 bar pressure. This development is so unprecedented the relevant legislation and regulations assumes its non-existence, that is, it applies to off shore upstream pipelines and to on land ones of around the levels of pressure used by Bord Gáis. The large pressure is necessary as the pipeline is actually pumping the gas straight out of the field, normally this process takes place completely at sea. This pipeline will pass by peoples' houses and by villages. It is being built through a bog where there have been landslides."

What's going to happen to the gas once it has been piped?
The plan is to pipe it and put it into the national grid, and sell it to whomever needs it. Shell and the state argue that "we're increasing all your gas", and yet there'll be no gas for mayo. By law it is illegal to distribute gas to Mayo, Sligo and Donegal because it is not economically viable. Shell are obligated to their shareholders to sell it to the highest bidder. The government are legally prevented from telling Shell what to do with the gas, they can sell it on to the UK if they want. "Shell want to get it to the market as fast as possible, and we all know who the market are", Monaghan tells us. "We have to put up with the pollution and the risk of responsibility, with no benefits."

How far has the project come?
"They say they have 60% of the work done. They may have 60% of the planing done, they may have 60% of the politicians bribed, but they don't have the pipeline built or the refinery built. Now is the time to get in their way. If we ignore it, it'll go away, at least for a while, but we all suffer. I don't want to tel my daughter "we tried our best, but we walked away". I intend to win this now. We can do this. This is the time to stop them. With your help, we can stop them."

Day of Solidarity: 16th of February, bring along musical instruments!
Dublin March: 24th of February
check out for more information

Posted Date: 
3 March 2007 - 1:37pm