Arrests break out as Shell machine sinks into Mayo bog
Prominent environmental activist Willie Corduff was arrested close to where a truck carrying a 160-tonne section of a giant tunnel boring machine sank in boggy ground in north County Mayo this week.
Corduff, one of the ‘Rossport Five’ which led opposition to a giant onshore gas refinery under construction by the Shell oil and gas company, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon amid chaotic and farcical scenes in the picturesque Mayo bogland.
He was objecting to the escalating disruption to local traffic arising from the transport of the tunnel machine and the lack of consultation with local residents. The road at Glenamoy Bridge has been badly damaged where the truck came off a small country road on Monday night: part of the road under the truck has now fallen into the peat and a broken pipe has caused flooding.
Efforts to exploit the giant Corrib gas field off the Irish coast has been surrounded in controversy from the outset in 2004, with allegations that Irish politicians corruptly gave the go-ahead for a project which could devastate the environmentally sensitive Mayo shoreline.
Shell’s construction of a potentially lethal high-pressure gas pipeline requires the giant Tunnel Boring Machine. On Sunday night, one part of that machine left Dublin port for Mayo amid a huge convoy of Garda vehicles.
It is one of three lorries transporting parts of the tunnelling machine, which will drill a 5km (3 mile) tunnel underSruwaddacon Bay and inland to the Bellanaboy Gas Processing Terminal.
Environmental campaigners who followed the convoy reported that there were Garda on every overpass on the motorway leading out of town and individual Garda every 50 or so metres along the road. They reported that it reminded them of the level of policing deployed during the British Queen’s visit last year. No one was allowed overtake the convoy which included four riot vans, numerous other police vehicles and four minibuses of private security, and moved at about 50km an hour as it headed west to Mayo.
However, Shell engineers revealed a disturbing lack of knowledge of the area’s road infrastructure when the 170 tonnes lorry plowed into the bog at Glenamoy. An attempt to dislodge it only further embedded the cab in a ditch, and the vehicle’s axle may now also be damaged.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the Traffic Management Plan for the construction of the tunnel does not permit the use of the road on which the lorry remains stuck.
Sinn Féin county councillor, Rose Conway-Walsh said ‘the health and safety of a whole community was put at risk’ by the blocking of the junction.
She confirmed that local councillors had not been consulted or informed about the transportation of the massive tunneling machine before news emerged that the vehicle had ditched at Glenamoy, where it currently remains.
“The lack of consultation about the transporting by road of this exceptional heavy convoy is appalling,” she said.
The disruption is continuing, with all vehicles being diverted onto soft bog roads which are unable to sustain the traffic. The scene has been cordoned off by privately-hired security guards and Garda police.
There have been four arrests, including that of Mr Corduff, who is charged with blocking a road.
Terence Conway, from the Shell to Sea campaign group, said the incident was evidence of the company’s dangerous incompetence.
“It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the incompetence of Shell and their inability to plan even a relatively simple thing, like driving a truck into a town,” he said.
“It will be a case of ‘beam me up Scotty’ if that thing is going to go anywhere, said Mr Conway.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous, completely farcical.”
Cathaoirleach eirigi Brian Leeson has stated that it is still not too late to stop the giveaway of the Corrib Gas Field.
“The massive scale of the Garda operation to assist the transportation of Shell’s TBM to Mayo is just the latest example of how far the state is willing to go to facilitate the raping of Ireland’s national resources by private corporations.
“Those who witnessed the Garda operation on Sunday night and Monday morning compared it to the security operation what was put in place in May of last year to facilitate another unwelcome visitor - Elizabeth Windsor.
“Over the last forty years successive Dublin governments have facilitated the giveaway of tens of billions of euro’s worth of Irish hydrocarbons. Unfortunately the gas from Kinsale, Ballycotton and the Seven Heads is now all but gone, but in the battle for the gas and oil in Corrib, Barryroe and elsewhere there is still everything to fight for.
“Ireland’s hydrocarbon resources belong to the people of Ireland by Right. This Right cannot be legislated out of existence by the laws of the corrupt gombeen men that have run this state since the time of partition.
“The campaign of resistance which has been waged in North-West Mayo over the last decade has succeeded in stalling the criminal exploitation of Corrib, whilst simultaneously highlighting the wider giveaway of Ireland’s oil and gas reserves.
“The people of Ireland owe a great debt to all of those that have participated in that campaign of resistance.”