Eight held as fresh protest flares over Shell pipeline
PROTESTS aimed at stopping the planned Corrib gas pipeline in Co Mayo scaled new and daring heights yesterday.
The Garda Water Unit was rafted in to quell the disturbance at Glengad beach near Belmullet, Co Mayo, after 15 people surrounded dredging machinery, forcing a halt to work.
Gardai said the limit for protesting had been exceeded and they were forced to arrest eight people when they refused to obey instructions to leave the restricted area.
Some of the arrested protesters arrested made it clear they were willing to put themselves continuously in harm's way to prevent Shell E+P Ireland connecting the pipeline to Glengad beach.
Three of the protesters who were arrested are English and are affiliated to the Great Rebel Raft Regatta -- a group which is also protesting at the E.ON coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, England, in a bid to try and prevent coal-carrying ships from reaching the facility.
The rest of the protesters who were arrested are not from the local area -- many are from Munster -- but some are known to gardai from previous protests in Glengad and Tara.
A statement released by the protesters said: "It's unacceptable what Shell is being allowed to get away with here in Mayo. We intend to plunder Shell's compound at Glengad and board the Solitaire when she arrives in the bay."
The pipe-laying ship, the Solitaire, is still anchored at St John's Bay in Donegal.
Garda and Shell E+P Ireland say it will be next week before the ship arrives in Broadhaven Bay. Yesterday, at 10am, 15 protesters from the Shell to Sea group took to the water in wetsuits and a motley flotilla of water craft, ranging from dinghies to inflatable novelty boats with dragons' heads, to prevent preparatory dredging work for the gas pipeline.
Gardai say the protesters refused requests by Shell E+P safety staff to leave the restricted area. Instead, the protesters moved closer to the dredging boat. The garda water units approached the protesters and, under the public order act, asked them to leave the area. When they again refused, gardai started making arrests. The eight people were arrested for public order offences in relation to entering a restricted area in the water off Glengad Beach.
All have been released without charge and gardai are deciding whether to prepare files for the Director of Public Prosecution. A garda spokesperson said the protests yesterday were the worst, in a safety sense, they had seen in two years. "We are very concerned about what took place today in terms of the safety issues and are urging all people not to engage in this type of activity again. We have had two years of protests here and everyone is entitled to protest.
"But the limit of protest was well crossed here today in Glengad and we wouldn't like to see any more of it."