New blow to Shell as ship halts pipeline operation
The world's largest pipe-laying ship finally arrived to begin work on the Corrib gasline yesterday -- but left within hours after developing "technical problems".
Shell E&P Ireland immediately dismissed rumours that the master of the 'Solitaire' left Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo, "on conscience grounds".
Shortly before noon yesterday, Shell announced that the 300m-long Solitare had developed technical problems an hour before it was due to begin laying pipes. This was less than 24 hours after it left Killybegs, Co Donegal -- where it had been waiting in port for several weeks.
"This morning during weather-sensitive preparatory works for the laying of the offshore Corrib gas pipeline, the end section of the Solitaire's pipe delivery equipment was damaged," said a Shell spokesman.
He added that the pipelaying programme would be suspended until a full assessment of damages was conducted and that, in the interim, the 'Solitaire' would return to Killybegs or another suitable harbour.
Later, John Egan, of Shell, said the suspension of the 'Solitaire' work was not because the master of the ship, Simon van der Plicht, did not want to be involved in work where a woman could lose her life while on a hunger strike.
"I can say this had absolutely nothing to do with the protest or the actions of protesters," said Mr Egan.
Declining to comment on Maura Harrington's hunger strike, he said the project had not been impeded by protests all over the summer.
Long-time anti-Corrib gas activist, Ms Harrington, who turns 55 next Monday, spent her second night on hunger strike in her car at the scene last night.
Her dramatic actions were from "a deep sense of commitment to place and country", she said.
"Our politicians have stood by and allowed our natural resources to be ripped off by billions of euro," she added.
Ms Harrington insisted she would only finish her hunger strike on confirmation that the 'Solitaire' has left Irish waters, or upon her death.
Five people arrested after a protest on the road leading to the Corrib gas pipeline landfall site in Co Mayo earlier yesterday were still being held last night.
The three men and two women, who are being held at Belmullet garda station, were arrested for alleged public order offences.