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Dublin Opinion >>
Shell Offices blockaded for five hours
One campaigner hospitalised as Gardaí let IRMS loose
Yesterday, one Corrib campaigner was hospitalised and several other injured as Gardaí stood by and allowed IRMS to assault and violently remove a group of people that had peacefully sat in front of the doors of the Shell offices in Belmullet. One member of the group had to be brought by ambulance from Belmullet to Castlebar by ambulance after being hit in the back by a IRMS security guard, while another protester was punched in the face by IRMS senior supervisor Derek Bolger.
From 7:30am yesterday morning a group of around 15 protesters assembled in front of the doors at the Shell offices in Belmullet. The blockade was called in protest against Shell's claim that all consents have now been granted for the onshore section of the Corrib Gas pipeline. The most crucial consent is still missing, that of the local community.
The group were sitting around the Shell doors when at about 10am approximately 30 IRMS security guards arrived led by Pat Doyle, Jim Farrell and Derek Bolger. Also present were around 10 Gardaí. Initally IRMS hemmed in the group at the doorway with a ring of 15 security guards and removed one person. Then the Gardaí came to the group and under instruction from IRMS (and their former Superintendent Pat Doyle) arrested one of the group. After this arrest, there was a half hour break before all the Gardaí pulled back from the scene and let IRMS carry on. IRMS then removed the protesters who were linked together one by one using whatever force was required.
As the security continued to take apart the blockade, some of the removed protesters attempted to get back in to re-join their colleagues. However they were met with considerable violence from particular members of the security. Derek Bolger punched one protester straight in the nose and swung for and missed at least one other protester. A protester was also hit on the back by one security guard and after leaving the scene had to have an ambulance called. He was brought by ambulance to Castlebar hospital on a stretcher and in a neck brace, where X-Rays were taken. He was released from hospital yesterday evening with nerve and tissue damage to his spine and neck.
Towards the end of the protest another campaigner was arrested after he was shoved by a security guard against a ban-garda. At once Sgt. Dermot Butler started accusing the campaigner of having assaulted the ban-garda. The campaigner was then arrested, despite not being told what he was being arrested for. He was later charged with 3 public order offences (not assault) and released. The two people who were arrested are due to appear in Belmullet District Court on July 13th. Sgt. Butler is hardly a protector of women's rights – there are at least 2 allegations that he made sexual remarks about campaigners coming out following the release of recording of a rape conversation among Gardaí. (http://www.shelltosea.com/content/mayo-man-alleges-gard...-2006)
The fact that the Gardaí pulled back and let IRMS deal with the peaceful protest all by themselves is an alarming but definite trend. In law the authority for a private security firm to use force on peaceful protesters is very unclear and isn't being answered by IRMS, Shell or the Gardaí. That Gardaí would stand by as protesters are assaulted by a private security firm is a very worrying development in a supposedly functioning democracy. This situation does occur in a lot of other countries, such as in Nigeria, where State forces also allow Shell to deal with protesters in the way of their choosing. However in Ireland this method of private security firms alone being allowed to deal with protests, is new and should be challenged.
Despite the injuries and arrests however the day was very effective in stopping Shell work as they prepare for construction of the onshore pipeline. Construction is expected to begin shortly (recently Shell said that peat haulage would be starting in the coming weeks) in the Aghoos compound. Employees were prevented from entering their offices for 5 hours & when they could finally return had to be escorted by IRMS. Indeed this has been second day that one of the employees who is over from Shell's Dutch head office has been disrupted from going into the Belmullet Shell offices.