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Corrib Protests- If Tuesday Was Not Mad Enough Try Today
MEP assaulted, work halted for six hours, campaigners drive into refinery and bounced back out again four hours later
Local Shell to Sea campaigners and their supporters at Rossport Solidarity Camp are resting after another bizarre day of lows, highs and outright idiocy during their ongoing protest against Shell in co. Mayo.
Dublin MEP Paul Murphy and supporters from the Socialist party joined the protest today
The day started unpromisingly with a 6am sortie against the compound at Aghoos seeking to exploit a couple of weak points in the fence. Shell's contractors Roadbridge and Shevlins are racing to finish the first bit of work in constructing the fencing and new entrance way. Every moment is counting for them. This left a couple of promising gaps which people from the camp sought to exploit in their dawn raid.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Security from IRMS were aggressive from
the beginning and were dragging people across hard-core and the road. Though the main target failed, a secondary one saw two people get in. As other weak points were probed, one protester who was on the road was deliberately charged from behind, tripping them face-first onto the road. This was all photographed; a complaint to a Sergeant imported from Galway was naturally treated with disdain, the gardaí happily taking their place as part of Shell's private security. This has already been reported to the Amnesty/Frontline human rights observer in the area and will be pursued.
People returned to camp to get a bit of rest and recuperate. Just before midday, Dublin MEP Paul Murphy (of the Socialist Party) and a number of supporters turned up. They were shown the camp and given an update as to how the campaign has been going.
While this was happening a group of people waited near the junction near Glenamoy, a key turning point for the vehicles coming between the refinery at Bellinaboy and the Aghoos compound. Most trucks and tractors along this route are escorted by gardaí, who have placed officers along this route, and whose vans regularly follow people walking it.
Despite all this attention from gardaí, quick thinking meant that one person was able to jump on top of a Barretts Quarry truck – the firm providing much of the hard-core – at around 1pm. It was a beautiful moment. Campers, locals, Paul Murphy & co all converged on the site. A good natured protest ensued, with people laughing, joking, singing, children making water balloons and the person on top of the truck giving us a rendition of “Which Side Are You On”, re-worded to take in Shell.
In the refinery a backlog of trucks and other vehicles began to build up. The public order team turned up with their cherry picker to remove the person on top of the truck. Those in the road sat down and formed two lines wrapping arms and legs around each other with the aim of stopping the cherry-picker coming in. The thugs from the public order team waded in, as ever, dragging people out, ripping clothing and using pressure points on the ear. Paul Murphy, who was involved in the line was among those assaulted in this fashion. Naturally he was livid. Word is that the story is going 'viral'.
Not to be deterred, after the person on the truck was removed and arrested, people decamped to the front of the refinery. Numbers grew to over 50 as more locals came to support. It was fantastic to see old faces again, something that really boosted the campers. It was clear there was a buzz despite the rain that came on. There was more playing in front of the gates, and a determination to resist in the air. For those who had been at the morning protest, it was such a lift. Gardaí and security stayed clear; the line of trucks backed up inside the refinery grew longer. The person who had been arrested was charged, released and came to join the protest.
Eventually Shell caved in. They parked up the trucks and shut up shop at Aghoos at 6.30pm. Though having pushed their workers to keep to the existing timetable, the day was lost to the campaigners. Fearing that they might try and take some of the vehicles out the back gate, people drove around, driving up close to the back gate. Two of these cars driven by locals (well known to security) and containing just as recognisable people were waved through the refinery gates by security. So, we suspect, heads are going to roll. One car drove around and back out again without security actually being aware of this. The other stayed in and drove around the refinery, two fingers up to all who think they can run rough-shod over the people of Erris. Naturally, the gardaí, late to the party this time, then began stopping workers going in. It was a great turn around to a long day. Now, for another planning meeting...
For Paul Murphy's own account see
I was just about to finish this report when we heard... two IRMS (Shell's private security) minibuses were blocked for an hour. And the car was still in the refinery as of 8pm. So down we head again, barely finishing inner. Security had surrounded the car at the inner perimeter fence as it was trying to leave. For some very bizarre reason they would not let the car leave by the gate directly in front of it, but wanted it to go all the way to the back gate.
The occupants refused that option as they were worried they would be ambushed. A tractor was brought and attached to the back of the car by a rope. For the next hour and a half the car was bounced backwards across the site. The idiocy of the people doing this meant that the car was constantly bouncing and knocking against the back of the tractor. Once occupant phoned the gardaí for help but the person answering the 999 call laughed. It is not hard to see why the gardaí in Erris are not trusted by the people who live there.
By 9pm a crowd of locals and people from the camp had assembled outside the back gate in support. Numbers swelled to forty by 10pm when the tractor finally brought the car out - gardaí and security filled out into the road - the security clearly acting like cops again – pushing concerned friends and family away. It was a relief to see our friends safe again.
More photos and video from the day will be added soon.
A long, exhausting day, but amazing in so many unexpected ways. Welcome to Mayo.
The sit down protest, aiming to stop the cherrypicker from removing the person from the lorry
Gardaí using pressure points forcing people to release themselves
Dublin MEP Paul Murphy being dragged away
Paul Murphy looking for answers from the guards