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Veteran Shell to Sea supporter becomes President as campaign commemorates baton charge
‘The people of Erris deserve protection from any company that seeks to trample over their rights. No company should be outside the law’ – Michael D. Higgins, November 6th, 2006
In February 2010, Michael D Higgins said of the Corrib project: “Agencies of the State got involved on the side of the developer, rather than on the side of the community. Given that alternative models were available in other countries, it was scandalous that we proceeded as we did.” 
Speaking at a protest at the gates of Shell’s refinery site on November 6th, 2006, Mr Higgins said: “The issue is the right of the people of Erris to have security and safety. They want to be able to live their lives in peace. They deserve protection from any company that seeks to trample over their rights. What is important are issues of justice and no company should be outside the law.”
He continued: “The resources of this planet need to be used responsibly for the people of the planet. The resources of Ireland belong to the people of Ireland.”
Among President Higgins’ roles will be commander-in-chief of the Irish Army and Navy, which may present a conundrum for the veteran socialist. In the summers of 2008 and 2009, the Irish Navy was deployed in Broadhaven Bay to repel protesters and assist Shell in laying part of the pipeline bringing raw gas from the Corrib gas field to landfall at Glengad Beach. Shell is currently attempting to begin work on the onshore section of the pipeline.
Higgins is not the first prominent Shell to Sea figure to have been appointed to high office. In June 2007, prominent Shell to Sea campaigner Eamon Ryan was appointed Minister for Energy and Natural Resources. This ministry included responsibility for the Corrib Gas project. However, as minister, he abandoned his concerns over Shell’s inland refinery in north Mayo, as well as Ireland’s giveaway licensing terms for oil and gas.
On the morning of Higgins’ inauguration as President, local residents and their supporters will gather at 10am at the gates of Shell’s inland refinery. From there they will walk to Bellanaboy Bridge to commemorate a baton charge by Gardaí on November 10th, 2006. The baton charge resulted in numerous injuries to campaigners and is one of the low points of the 11-year struggle against the inland refinery and high pressure pipeline.
They will also be marking the 16th anniversary of the execution of nine activists in Ogoniland, Nigeria. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were hanged by the Nigerian government on November 10th, 1995 for their opposition to Shell’s environmental destruction in the Niger delta.
From 7am, campaigners will carry out mass actions at Shell facilities.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said today: “For 11 years this community has been resisting the combined force of a corrupt State and arrogant multinationals. Shell’s experimental inland refinery in this bog is a monument to corruption and we will continue to resist it.”