Heavy gang treatment for Shell to Sea campaign

Shell to Sea campaigners who have been threatened and physically abused by the Garda police in their protest against an onshore gas refinery in County Mayo plan to take legal action against the force.

They have also pledged to continue protesting at Bellanaboy where Shell is planning to build a large plant and high-pressure pipeline to process gas from the Corrib gas field.

Independent TD Dr Jerry Cowley, a supporter of the campaign, said there could be no resolution to the situation, unless Shell agreed that it needed the consent of locals before it continued its work on the gas terminal.

Hundreds of locals who are concerned about pollution, health and safety, and the disruption to their livelihoods and landscape, have banded together to try and stop the project.

Last week, Shell to Sea protestors had to be physically removed from the entrance to the Bellanaboy site to allow employees to work, after refusing a request by gardai to move.

A spokeswoman for the protestors was injured following a confrontation with gardai on Friday.

Four protestors who were arrested have since been released. A large crowd had gathered outside Belmullet Garda Station where the men were being held.

However, campaigners said it was no coincidence all of those detained were fishermen, and the arrests came a day after the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association issued a statement criticising the Government’s deployment of gardai to facilitate Shell.

More than 100 gardai are still stationed in north Mayo to escort workers into the terminal site at Bellanaboy.

Campaign spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said that over the last two weeks since Shell staff resumed work at the site, the objectors had been subjected to a “a co-ordinated assault designed to delegitimise and criminalise local opposition to Shell’s project in Mayo”.

“Garda policing of local protests has become increasingly aggressive and is adding to tensions on the ground. Numerous incidents have been logged by monitors and will be pursued in due course.

“The reality is that Shell’s project does not have the consent of the majority of the people directly affected by it. We are defending peacefully our community from the unprecedented threat to our health and safety posed by this project. Almost no benefits other than short-term construction jobs will arise from this project to our community and the people of Mayo.”

Shell To Sea protesters also occupied the headquarters of Shell Ireland in Dublin last week. Some staged a sit-down demo in the lobby of the building on Wednesday, while others climbed on to the one-storey roof of the reception area.

Sinn Féin criticised the demonisation and criminalisation of the protestors by the state and the mainstream media.

Natural resources spokesman Martin Ferris also criticised the Garda handling of the campaign.

“Massive Garda resources are being deployed to enforce the will of a multi-national against the wishes of the local people and against the economic interests of the Irish people,” he said.

“While decent law abiding people are being dragged off the roads in Bellanaboy, Shell’s friends in the media are conducting a campaign to portray them in a sinister light,” he added.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News