Thirteen members of the Shell 2 Sea Group were arrested on July 22nd for challenging the legality of construction work on a contentious pipeline in an area designated for "Special Conservation".
The potentially dangerous high-pressure gas pipeline and onshore refinery have been the subject of a long-running dispute in County Mayo between Shell Oil and local residents.
After a one-hour standoff on Tuesday, a large deployment of Garda police arrived at the scene, led by Superintendent John Gilligan.
After speaking with Shell personnel, Supt Gilligan approached the protestors and was told about the concerns over the necessary permissions for the work. He was told that members of the assembled protestors had met with the National Parks & Wildlife Service on the previous day and that it had been agreed that the relevant documentation would be forthcoming.
However, it was requested by the protestors that the work be halted until the situation was clarified. Protestors recalled that, in similar circumstances last October, Gardai had attempted to push through drilling work in the area for Shell that was challenged by locals and which was subsequently found to be illegal.
Supt. Gilligan then once more spoke with Shell personnel inside the compound and after warning all the people assembled, people began to be arrested. The mood of the arrestees after release was definitely one of resolute defiance.
After the 13 were arrested, Shell attempted to re-commence the excavation work.
On Thursday morning, over 40 gardai, who are now stationed in the Shell compound, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad beach so that 10ft high fencing could be erected about 40ft down onto the beach.
Using the Public Order Act, Superintendent John Gilligan ordered the crowd to leave the area and then the gardai forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area.
The members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when, they tore down the cliff-face to create a causeway down to the beach.
The fencing, which is likely to be extended, already cuts the beach in two.
The legality of the consents given is still an issue of major concern to the people of the locality as it is still unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work.
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has since claimed an "oversight" was made in failing to publish the latest authorisations.
Shell to Sea campaigner Terence Conway stated "The gardai have always spoken about keeping the roads open for the public and Shell alike. However today they are willing to close off a public beach so that Shell can fence it off".
"The fact is that this first onshore section is the most dangerous part of the whole project as the pressure could be as high as 345bar and still it will not have gone through any planning if it is constructed".