Two more supporters of the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign may now face charges following a five-hour protest related to the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.
The two men were arrested and taken to Belmullet Garda police station after chaining themselves to a van in an attempt to halt work at the controversial site.
Shell Inc. is attempting to build a potentially dangerous onshore gas refinery, including a high-pressure gas pipeline through part of County Mayo, in order to avoid the costs which would be incurred in building a safer refinery offshore.
Supporters of the men said that they were protesting over the jailing of three Erris fishermen last week. The fishermen were convicted last Wednesday of assaulting a Garda during a Corrib gas protest last year.
The fishermen - Patrick O’Donnell, Jonathan O’Donnell and Enda Carey - are appealing their convictions.
The Shell to Sea “lock-on” at Bellanaboy bridge began when the two men, both of whom live in the area, chained themselves to each other and to the van 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 obstruction prevented lorries and other vehicles from approaching the Corrib gas terminal site via Bellanaboy bridge for over five hours.
A separate protest was staged on an alternative route to the terminal site 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”.
Up to 50 gardai cordoned off the section of road and 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”.
About 20 Shell to Sea supporters attended Swinford District Court yesterday as as a gesture of solidarity with the fishermen.
Father and son Patrick and Jonathan O’Donnell and Enda Carey had earlier received prison sentences of between one and three months as well as fines of up to five hundred Euros for alleged assault on Gardai at the protest.
Mary Corduff, of the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign, 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”.
Speaking in support of the protest, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh slammed the State authorities and An Garda Siochana for their “concerted campaign of intimidation and assault against a local community and peaceful demonstrators”.
The Sinn Féin Deputy said, “I have heard personal stories and have viewed appalling acts carried out in Bellanaboy in North West Mayo by An Garda Siochana against peaceful protestors. While there have been many instances of Garda violence no members have faced any repercussions. Instead protestors have faced trumped up charges of assault.
“An Garda Siochana are supposed to be a police service there to serve and protect citizens of this state not to beat them off public roads in order to facilitate multinational companies such as Shell in their rape and plunder of our natural resources. An Garda Siochana deployed to police these protests out in Bellanaboy are behaving like Shell thugs.
“Sinn Féin remains steadfast in our opposition to the giveaway of billions of euro worth of gas by Fianna Fail and will stand shoulder to shoulder with the besieged communities out in Mayo in their struggle against natural resource theft, environmental sabotage and Garda and Shell brutality.
“Criminalisation of progressive political struggles has failed in the past on this island and it will fail again. I would like to encourage every person on this island and beyond who has a social conscience to join with Shell to Sea and Sinn Féin in this struggle and call for the release of these political prisoners immediately.”