4 September 2008 Edition
Shell's gunboat diplomacy
BY ADAM MURPHY
‘GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY’ came to Mayo last week when a Naval Service ship, the LE Orla, arrived off the coast at Broadhaven Bay to protect and support the giant Shell multinational’s Corrib gas project against civil disobedience. Reports on Tuesday said that the LE Aoife had also been deployed by Defence Minister Willie O’Dea.
Shell, with the co-operation of the 26-County Government, is planning to use the giant pipe-laying ship, The Solitaire, to lay the offshore section of their pipeline and make landfall at Glengad beach in Kilcommon. The beach is part of a recognised “Special Area of Conservation” and the company has no planning permission for the pipeline once it reaches land but the Minister for the Environment, Green Party leader John Gormley, has done nothing to stop Shell from tearing a section from the protected habitat to install a compound in the dunes.
Local people opposed to the project on environmental grounds demonstrated at the beach last month and 13 of them were arrested. A huge metal fence now encloses the Shell compound. In recent weeks, protesters have used kayaks and dinghies to reach the beach and the Garda Water Unit has been used to protect the cranes and diggers on the sand. Protests at the compound gates have been met with the now familiar scenes of Garda violence.
Shell’s big worry, however, was not about concerned locals and protesters in canoes. It was that the fishermen who have licences to fish for crab in the bay would not remove their gear and so would pose an obstacle to The Solitaire’s operations. While the huge vessel was fitted out at Killybegs in Donegal, representatives from Shell offered cash to fishermen to stay out of the way of the operation. Some fishermen have taken the money but others, worried about the impact the pollution from the Shell scheme will cause to the local marine environment, vowed to leave their fishing gear in place, blocking the path of the pipe-laying ship.
Pat O’Donnell - known locally as ‘The Chief’ - told An Phoblacht about his concerns about the project:
“My main concern is that the outflow from the Shell site could contaminate the waters of the bay.
“If Broadhaven Bay is contaminated by the discharge from the refinery, and even a slight trace of contamination shows up in the crabs, then the whole fishery will be closed down and that means the end for an awful lot of jobs. But not only jobs will go; a whole tradition will end.
“I’m the fourth generation fishing these waters. My son, Jonathan, is the fifth generation. This Shell project could end all that. That’s why the project does not have local consent.”
Asked how he felt about a Naval Service fishery protection vessel being against local fishermen, Pat O’Donnell was very clear:
“They should be ashamed to be flying the Tricolour. They are not protecting the people of Ireland; they are working for Shell and should be flying the Shell flag.”
COLLUSION: The Navy's LE Orla and the Solitaire, the pipe-laying ship being used by Shell