Despite jailings and arrests resistance to Shell goes on

These three articles chart the continued resistance to Shell in Erris in the west of Ireland where over the last couple of weeks Shell has been drilling 80 test holes in the Sruwaddacon bay Special Areas of Conservation.  I spent the June bank holiday at the Solidarity camp before this latest round of construction started and swam in Broadhaven bay on a surprizingly warm Sunday morning at the start of June

Resistance continues as Shell to Sea campaigner freed after 118 days in prison

A still defiant Shell to Sea campaigner, Niall Harnett, has been released after spending 118 days in Castlerea prison. On his release Niall announced that "I am going straight back to the Rossport Solidarity Camp to be with my fellow activists and Shell to Sea friends in the local community. We seem to bring out the best in each other, unlike Shell and the Irish government, who bring out the worst in each other."  Niall's release today means that for the first time in many months no Shell to Sea campaigners are in prison, however resistance to Shell still continues in Erris.

According to the Shell to Sea website Niall had been sentenced to six months for "putting his hand on Garda Egan while Garda Egan was pulling out of a fellow protestor  whose leg was caught on Shell’s illegally constructed fencing."  On the site that protester, Eoin O'L, revealed what had actually happened on the day "Even though I hadn’t be arrested or even cautioned, straight away Garda Egan started dragging and pulling out of me. At this stage, I had my arm around the struts of the fence and my leg was between the fences. This pulling and dragging continued for around 5 minutes and it was during this time that Niall Harnett took hold of Garda Egan’s hand in an attempt to prevent him from causing further harm to myself. Niall Harnett pleaded with Garda Egan to stop pulling at me, but he continued. At this stage I was in considerable pain. I was eventually pulled away from the fence after Niall Harnett removed my shoe and eased my leg back through the fence.
While Niall Harnett did touch Garda Egan’s hand during the incident, that was all it was, a touch on the hand. It is worth noting that no direction was ever given to me to leave the area or I was never cautioned or arrested .. I received extensive bruising and had strained neck muscles for about 2 weeks after the incident, yet Judge Groarke in his judgement said that during my evidence in the trial I never said that I was in pain at any time."

Meanwhile resistance to Shell's plans to impose an experimental high pressure raw gas pipeline on the people of Kilcommon continues.  Over the last couple of weeks Shell have had two rigs drilling over 80 holes in Sruwaddacon bay, the bay is supposed to be an area of Special Areas of Conservation.  Most recently on Thursday "lead by the rousing sound of a visiting bagpiper and drummer" people from the local community of Pullathomas and Rossport "returned to one of Shell's drilling rigs, gaining access at low tide across the exposed sand bars of Sruwaddacon bay. On arriving at the rig a number of people surrounded the drill casing and danced around it before forming a tight huddle to prevent any further work occurring."  Work was prevented for a number of hours before after Gardai had withdrawn from the area personnel from Shell's controversial I-RMS security company "jumped on protesters and forcefully removing them, themselves surrounding the drill."

Originally published on the WSM web site 16 August 2010

Community stop Shell drilling in Sruwaddacon Estuary in Erris


On Tuesday morning forty people from around Sruwaddacon Estuary in Erris brought Shell’s survey work in the area to a complete standstill when they walked out onto the mudflats at low tide to assert their cockle-picking rights and disrupt Shell’s borehole drilling survey.  Shell has two barges drilling over 80 test holes in this Special Areas of Conservation, work that is opposed by the local community as part of their ongoing resistance to Shell's plan to run an experimental high pressure raw gas pipeline near their houses.

According to Shell to Sea at around 11.30am people converged at Aughoose and walked down a public right of way onto the mudflats. The group walked to one of the two jack-up barges and prevented drilling by walking underneath the platform. IRMS - Shell’s controversal private security firm – tried to block their free passage but the people prevailed and walked where they pleased. Three people scaled the legs of the barge and occupied them for about four hours. One person chained himself to the one of the drill-shafts in order to stop the work.

About 8 people from the group walked down to the other jack-up barge and enjoyed similar success. Commenting on the scarcity of cockles found on the walk, one local said: “They have probably been scared by the noise from the drilling and must have buried themselves deeper down”.

At about 12.30pm 13 Gardaí walked out onto the strand to assist IRMS. Several warnings were given under section 8 of the public order act for people to stay away from the jack-up barges.Section 8 is a catch all charge that the Gardai use whenever they want to suppress protest to intimidate campaigners.  At about 1pm the Gardaí cut out the person locked to the drill shaft and arrested him under section 8 of the public order act. At about 1.30pm, with only Gardaí and IRMS beneath the barges, drilling work resumed, even though the legs of the barge were still occupied by three people some 3 - 4 metres above ground. The work almost immediately ground to a halt once more however after one person re-entered under the rig. She was roughly dragged out by IRMS security and arrested by the Gardai under section 8 of the public order act. Both arrestees were brought to Belmullet Garda Station for processing and were released later that day.

Meanwhile the breach had an invigorating effect and with more local people arriving the group reoccupied under the barge despite hollow warnings from the Gardaí. At about 3pm with the tide coming back in the group headed for dry land.  Work has now been stopped on several occasions in the last couple of weeks despite the campaign of Gardai intimidation and the arrest of over a dozen campaigners.  On Monday a group of Kaykers managed to disrupt barge movement but reported that "the Gardaí seemed happy to let IRMS do as they pleased on the water, with kayakers being unlawfully rammed, grabbed, towed against their will - all on a public waterway. At one stage an IRMS boat stole one kayak from under its owner, capsizing him into the water. "

On the 2nd of August Green Party Minister Gormley made recent directions regarding Special Areas of Conservation  and leisure activities. Gormley stated: “Along with other EU States, Ireland has designated certain areas for nature protection and, in those areas that must be our priority. Many people, indeed, find recreation in the enjoyment of undisturbed nature.”

At the scene Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway stated: “Despite his recent proclamation Minister Gormley gave the go ahead for this destruction. It seems that there is one law for Shell and another law for the rest of us.” “The people here have opposed this project for 10 years and will continue to do so to protect our health, safety & environment.”

Text based on Shell to Sea press release, image Shell to Sea,

Originally publihsed on WSM site

Gardai assault Shell to Sea protester - 'I have your life in my hands'

At 7pm last night Shell to Sea campaigners used kayaks to approach a Shell drilling platform in Broadhaven bay.  Five Gardai boats intercepted them and overturned the kayaks, dumping the campaigners in the water.  When one campaigner managed to swim underneath the platform he was hauled onto one of the Gardai boats where a Gardai proceeded to choke him for 90 seconds.

Shell have just started drilling 80 boreholes in the bay in preparation for their latest scheme to impose their experimental gas pipeline on the communities of Erris.  In order to try and avoid the safety issues raised in the An Bord Planala letter of the new year Shell now plan to tunnel under Sruth Fhada Chonn estuary despite the fact this is a  Specially Protected Area & part of the Broadhaven Bay Special Area of Conservation.  This new route will still be within 250m of houses.

According to Shell to Sea this mornings Gardai attack started when "One of the campaigners, Eoin Lawless managed to get close to the platform. When Gardaí overturned his kayak, he swam under the platform. A Garda then jumped into the water after him, and without giving any instruction proceeded to drag him from the water into the near by Garda boat.

Mr. Lawless said, “I had told Gardaí that I would leave the area but I was dragged from the water and they proceeded to kneel on my back. I was not informed whether I was under arrest or why I was being manhandled. One Garda then pinched my throat with his two fingers and cut off my air supply. He was obviously trained in how to do it. He held me like that for about 90 seconds, allowing me to take one or two gasps. He kept saying into my ear that he had my last breath in his hands.”

“It was terrifying. I truly believed he might kill me. We need human rights observers to come back down to Mayo as a matter of urgency” said Mr. Lawless.

Mr. Lawless received medical attention at Belmullet Garda station last night."

The request for Human Rights observers was presumably a reference to the Frontline report 'Breakdown in Trust' which  concluded that there is a situation of human rights' defence to which the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is applicable.

This mornings protest by Shell to Sea was part of a plan to try to stop Shell from drilling the boreholes over the next few months through a campaign of peaceful protest.  There is a long record of Gardai violence against Shell to Sea campaigners and as the Frontline report points out the Minister for Justice can and did veto "an investigation into certain policies and practices of the Garda Síochána regarding the Corrib gas dispute" by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) highlighting the generally toothless nature of the  Ombudsman and the reason why few campaigners now bother to file complaint's after they have been assaulted by Gardai.

This morning when Shell to Sea campaigners returned to the waters of Broadhaven bay they were again attacked by Gardai who stole 3 kayaks and a rib off them as well as arresting two campaigner

Originally published on WSM site


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