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Another spring dawns on Corrib
CLEAR MESSAGE?A Shell to Sea protester vents his frustration by hurling a snowball at the Shell sign at the Bellanaboy site during last Friday’s protest. ?Pic: Peter Wilcock Another spring dawns on Corrib IN BELLANABOY Áine Ryan THERE was little sign of the Celtic goddess of spring, Brigitta – or her reputed powers of warming the earth – as dawn broke over Bellanaboy last Friday morning, February 1. Biting snow showers melted into the grey damp as small groups of Shell to Sea protesters huddled around their signature headquarters, the tiny sheep-trailer. By 7am the trailer was already providing hot beverages, homemade bread, scones and sandwiches for the stalwarts of the campaign. Meanwhile, the yellow rain gear of the Gardaí – manning the gates, and on checkpoint duty at all approach roads – provided mobile beads of light as night begins to recede. Despite the fact that it was business as usual for Shell contractors inside the gates, where the refinery is under construction, the protesters were still as committed as ever to the processing of the controversial gas offshore. They all now sing from the same hymn sheet: the focus is no longer on the refinery; it is rather on the yet-to-be-announced pipeline route. “They can build that white elephant in the bog but they still have to find a route and lay the pipes. The essentials haven’t changed, because the refinery is still in the same place and its landfall is still in the same place, Sweeney’s field, right in the area of the landslide,” said Maura Harrington. She told The Mayo News that last Friday’s protest was ‘never meant to be a mass rally’. “The campaign had gone beyond rallies. Of course, Shell, facilitated by the State, used these rallies to try and criminalise people,” she added, before leaving for work. “Today we are simply marking the fact that this week Shell announced annual profits of €27 billion, which could pay off Ireland’s national debt.” Standing nearby was Uinsionn Mac Graith. He agreed with Maura Harrington, adding: “No matter which route they take they will have to go through SACs [Special Areas of Conservation], NHAs [Natural Heritage Areas] and SPAs [Special Protection Areas].” Rossport Five’s Willie Corduff arrived too, and remarked that the campaign is as strong as ever. “We’re all very relaxed at the moment and if they’re stupid enough to keep building, well, let them. And when it comes to the pipeline, let them put it through the lands of those communities they say are for it,” said Mr Corduff. “Look at the objections to the Killala windfarm and the one in Bangor Erris and what Cllr Gerry Coyle said about [the need for developers] to talk to the communities.” Another stinging hail and snow shower caused a rush into the sheep trailer where maitre’d Mary Horan adjusted the aerial of the spluttering radio and served the sudden surge of guests at the same time. She told The Mayo News that she still opens the trailer every morning and, on average, 40 to 50 people turn up each day. Vincent McGrath, of the Rossport Five, arrived as the shower lightened. His focus too is on the pipeline route. “It will be the same as 2005 [when the Rossport Five were jailed after they refused to allow Shell onto their lands, even though a Compulsory Acquisition Order had been granted]. Except now the community is stronger than ever in its opposition to this imposed pipeline,” he observed. When questioned by The Mayo News regarding Shell’s option of traversing Sruwadaccon Bay – thus avoiding potentially contentious lands – Vincent McGrath noted categorically: “By coming up Sruwadaccon Bay, a Green Minister [John Gormley] will have to go to the EU and seek a derogation of its special status.” Shortly after 9am, Garda vans saunter up and down the road. Rumours that there were 150 gardaí drafted into north Mayo for the protest are discussed. A bemused garda at the gate rubbishes such rumours. “How many of us are here now.…… one, two, three, four ….?” A group of locals talk about distributing a DVD in Belmullet later that morning. Called ‘Policing the Pollution’, it documents alleged instances of pollution from the site and was made by a visitor to the area, Oscar Beard. Armed with a St Brigid’s Cross, The Mayo News sets off across the bogs of Erris for Westport. Apparently there is no shortage of rushes in the area, nor is there any dearth of conviction, opinion, entrenchment…especially about Corrib gas.
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Posted Date: 
2 February 2008 - 5:44pm