19 July 2007 Edition

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Shell to Sea a community under siege

Protest at Bellinaboy last Thursday

Protest at Bellinaboy last Thursday

Erris fishermen get bail — Two more Shell to Sea protestors arrested

Ella O’Dwyer

Over forty activists opposed to the controversial Shell pipeline/refinery scheme proposed for Erris, County Mayo gathered in the pouring rain outside the Department of Justice in Dublin Friday last to protest against the imprisonment of three local fishermen on charges of assault which the men and the protestors strenuously deny.
Pat O’Donnell, his son Johnathan O’Donnell, and Enda Carey were sentenced on Wednesday of last week, two to three months and one to four months in prison. Since October last year, a huge force of Gardaí have been in control of the Shell refinery site at Bellinaboy in North West Mayo as previously reported in this paper. There is huge concern locally at the convictions given the fact that Gardaí have been seen to conduct themselves in a blatantly aggressive and violent manner during several peaceful Shell to Sea protests since the onset of the campaign.
During peaceful protests by the local people and others who are opposed to Shell’s scheme, there have been many instances of Garda violence and many people have been injured, some seriously and there is video and television footage to confirm this. Despite the dozens of complaints to the Gardaí, the Garda Ombudsman Commission, TD’s and other interested groups there has been no action taken against any member of the force. As local people see it the Gardaí have tried to project the blame for the violent scenes onto the protesters despite the video and television evidence to the contrary.
Speaking at the Dublin protest John Flynn of Dublin Shell to sea said: “The recent arrest of the three fishermen once again brought the issue of the Shell refinery scheme to the fore in the public mind and the turnout here today in the pouring rain is evidence of people’s concern about this matter and there is another protest going on right now in Bellinaboy.” Members of the Shell to Sea campaign group handed in a letter for Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, asking that Gardaí stationed at Bellinaboy police the protests and refinery work in an even-handed manner.
As the protest was taking place at the Department of Justice another one was taking place outside the refinery site at Bellinaboy where the local community had come out en masse to block lorries from entering the construction site. Shell to Sea campaigners have applied a peaceful approach to their protests adapting methods such as ‘lock downs’ where they chain themselves together through pipes making it very difficult for them to be removed and forcing the lorries to divert to another route. On Thursday two protestors  locked on to an immobilised vehicle, preventing access to the site. When the lorries diverted they were again blockaded by locals who came out to prevent the passage of the vehicles.
One local person described the convictions of the fishermen as being as gross as the injustice inflicted on the Rossport Five in June 2005 when the five were jailed for refusing to obey a High Court order not to interfere with the construction of the Corrib gas pipeline. Commenting on the disruption to life in the small community of Bellinaboy Vincent McGrath of Shell to Sea said: “We’ve literally been under siege here for months.” While the three fishermen got bail later on Friday the two men who chained themselves to a vehicle at Bellinaboy – Bob Kavanagh and Terence Conway – were arrested and taken to Belmullet Garda station after the chains were cut by Gardaí and fire brigade staff. The two men were released later on Friday but are believed to face charges of obstructing the public highway. Speaking to An Phoblacht after their release Terence Conway said: “On Friday the Gardaí didn’t assault as many people as they normally do. I fully expected to have a broken arm by the time they had cut the chains – it’s sore but not broken. Anyone with an open mind can see that our campaign is right. We won’t be backing down on this and it’s time that the politicians came out and met us openly. They won’t do that because they know it would show clearly just how right we’ve been all along.”
Last Sunday Dublin Shell to Sea campaigners handed a letter of protest to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as he made his way into the Leinster Football Final in Croke Park.
The Shell to Sea campaign  clearly won’t go away until a just resolution is arrived at.

An Phoblacht
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