Mayo man Pat O’Donnell has had his boat, the ‘Iona Isle’ boarded last night by armed, masked men and sunk in the latest act of aggression by Shell OIl & Gas in their attempt to construct a controversial onshore gas refinery in Belmullet.
Mr O’Donnell, locally known as ‘The Chief’, and the other crewman who were on board at the time are said to be safe and recovering in hospital after rescue.
The fishing boat was boarded by four masked men, two of whom were armed, at approximately two o clock this morning whilst out at sea laying pots.
The two armed men held Mr O’Donnell and his crewman Martin McDonnell in the wheelhouse of the boat while another two went below deck for 20 minutes.
These men returned to the deck and the two crew members were held for one and a half hours until the engine went out.
At this point the masked men alighted onto an unknown vessel that took them away. None of the men spoke good english. Mr O’Donnell went down to the engine room and realised that the boat was sinking.The two fishermen put out a mayday signal and attempted to inflate their lifeboat.
The inflation mechanism failed a number of times but eventually worked with only moments left to spare. Once onboard the lifeboat Mr O’Donnell and Mr McDonnell sent out a distress flare.
They were rescued at 4.30am by the ‘Rachel Mary’, another boat owned by Pat O’Donnell and operated by his son, Jonathan O’Donnell. He then rang the Gardai at around 6am to inform them of the incident.
Pat said: ‘“I was in fear for my life, is there no end to what these thugs will try to do? All I am trying to do is protect my family and the seas that are our livelihood. I told Minster O’Cuiv in April that I needed protection by the state, but he wouldn’t give it - now its time for the government to protect its people.I won’t be intimidated by this.”
Pat O’Donnell is a local fisherman with over thirty years experience in the waters off the coast of Ireland. It is assumed that Pat O’Donnell was targeted as he is one of the loudest objectors to Shell’s Corrib Gas Project.
As a fifth generation fisherman his livelihood will be crippled by pollution from the corrib project into Broadhaven bay. Determined to protect the waters for future generations of fishermen, Mr. O’Donnell has consistently refused to be paid off by Shell.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington said: “Will Shell stop at nothing to stamp down on the protest here in Mayo? This attack on Pat and Martin and their boat is nothing short of disgusting, and could easily have been even more dangerous, as there were problems with their life raft and neither man can swim . Those opposing the project are now in fear of their lives.”
This development follows a sinister pattern of attacks on high profile opponents of the Corrib gas project. In April, local farmer Willie Corduff was severely beaten while protesting against Shell’s return to Glengad. On that occasion, Shell’s private security force - Integrated Risk Management Services (IRMS) - initially refused to comment on the situation, but later claimed responsibility for a watered-down version of events. IRMS have been accused of brutality on a number of occasions in relation to their work in Mayo. Another campaigner suffered ligament damage at the hands of IRMS last week while protesting. Shell’s work in the Niger Delta has also been in the public mind this week with a huge settlement in favour of the Ogoni 9 at a court in New York.
In a separate incident, six people have been arrested during an attempt to board dredgers working in Broadhaven Bay, while two others will also appear before Westport District Courtin relation to arrests at a protest which blocked trucks from entering Shell’s Glengad compound for over an hour.
Security guards employed by Shell reacted to the occupation with violence on Saturday, including throwing one of the protestors overboard.
Van Oord, the Dutch firm contracted to carry out dredging work for Shell, then withdrew from the area, claiming that bad weather had forced them to pull out. This account was, however, contradicted by an unnamed security guard based in the onshore Shell complex, who insisted that Van Oord’s decision was based on health and safety considerations stemming from the recklessness of some of Shell’s security personnel in dealing with the protest.
These events clearly show that, through direct action, pressure can be exerted on those complicit in the theft of Ireland’s natural resources and the related ecological destruction in a Special Area of Conservation in County Mayo.
One of the ways of putting pressure on Van Oord to withdraw from the Corrib project indefinitely is by contacting them and informing them that they are taking part in theft of Irish natural resources against the wishes of the people of Ireland generally and the people of Rossport in particular.
The contact details are:
PO Box 85743009 AN Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Visiting address: Watermanweg 643067 GG Rotterdam The Netherlands
Phone 31 10 4478444
Van Oord UK Ltd
Lockside Place, Mill Lane, Newbury RG14 5QS Berks United Kingdom
Visiting address: Lockside Place, Mill Lane, Newbury RG14 5QS Berks U.K.
Phone: +44 1635 529101