"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
The Irish TimesFriday 13th July 2007
Lorna Siggins, Teresa O'Malley, Tom Shiel
Shell to Sea protesters chained together underneath a van at Bellanaboy bridge in Co Mayo yesterday during a five-hour "lock-on". Supporters said that the men were protesting at the jailing of three Erris fishermen earlier this week.Photograph: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
Two supporters of the Shell to Sea campaign were expected to be charged with public order offences in north Mayo last night following a five-hour protest related to the Corrib gas project.
The two men were arrested and taken to Belmullet Garda station after gardaí, fire brigade and ambulance personnel cut through chains - attached to a van on a public road - which the men had locked themselves on to yesterday morning.
Supporters of the men said that they were protesting over the jailing of three Erris fishermen earlier this week. The fishermen were convicted last Wednesday of assaulting a Garda sergeant during a Corrib gas protest last year.
The fishermen - Patrick O'Donnell, Jonathan O'Donnell and Enda Carey - are appealing their convictions and were released on bail yesterday afternoon.
The Shell to Sea "lock-on" at Bellanaboy bridge began at about 9.30am yesterday, when the two men, both of whom live in the locality, chained themselves to each other and to a van with a Louth registration and lay on the road. The van was parked sideways and the men's chains were attached to a steel girder welded under the vehicle. The men had access to water, but they did not appear to have food with them during the five-hour period.
The obstruction prevented lorries and other vehicles from approaching the Corrib gas terminal site via Bellanaboy bridge, and vehicles seeking access to the Shell project had to take an alternative route.
However, a separate protest was then staged at Knocknalaur on the back route to prevent heavy goods vehicles and lorries from passing. Peter Lavelle, a resident of Knocknalaur and a Shell to Sea supporter, said that this road was "not a haulage route".
Back at Bellanaboy bridge, up to 50 gardaí cordoned off the section of road for a number of hours. Shortly after 3pm, gardaí, fire brigade and ambulance staff began cutting through the equipment, having first raised the vehicle to remove the girder underneath.
The cutting took about half an hour and members of the public and Shell to Sea supporters cheered when the men were "released". They were assessed in an ambulance before being taken to Belmullet Garda station.
Mary Corduff, of Shell to Sea, said that there was a "lot of local anger" over the jailing of the fishermen. Shell to Sea spokesman John Monaghan said that the action would continue "for as long as people's right to due process is denied, and as long as this project continues in its destructive and exploitative form".
In a statement, Shell to Sea referred to the recent report by the US-based human rights group Global Community Monitor into the policing of the protests at Bellanaboy, which had highlighted "serious injury, loss of trust in the rule of law and the Garda and disruption to the culture and values of the area".
The report said that lack of intervention by the EU and human rights protection entities threatened to "create an even more explosive situation".
Gardaí in north Mayo have denied the claims in relation to criticism of the force.
Policing for the Corrib gas project has cost the State some €5.4 million from last October to mid-April, according to the most recent figures.
About 20 Shell to Sea supporters attended Swinford District Court yesterday as as a gesture of solidarity with the fishermen. Independent sureties were approved by Judge Mary Devins. In the case of Patrick O'Donnell, the sureties were provided by Ignatius Mangan, Doohoma; John Healy, a Barnatra shopkeeper, provided the surety for Jonathan O'Donnell; and Bríd and Pádraig Carey provided the surety for their son, Enda Carey.
Those providing sureties each handed €800 in cash into court, one-third of the €2,400 independent surety required by the court. Each defendant also has to pay their own surety of €600 for appeal purposes.
© 2007 The Irish Times