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Eye-witness report from Bellanaboy
rights, freedoms and repression |
Tuesday November 14, 2006 19:03 by Eye-witness
Welcome to the irish Police State
This report briefly explains what happened at Bellanaboy on the anniversary of the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa - with a few comments on the whole issue from the observer's point of view and a few pictures.
A mean-looking subversive wields a dangerous poster in an obviously threatening manner
As a supporter of friends in Erris who are part of the Shelltosea campaign, I went along last Friday to help the great multi-national Shell corporation to save time, effort and, most importantly, money by pointing out to them that Bellanaboy is not a suitable place for a refinery – for a number of very good reasons. Apparently the government do not share this view – they helped Shell get the site cheap from semi-state forestry company Coillte and they have built Shell a nice new road from Bangor to Bellanaboy and improved other roads through Mayo. They decided that there was no point in asking local people what they thought about having a high-pressure gas pipeline and accompanying toxic waste pipeline running past their front doors – those who did find out the truth and questioned it were simply jailed to help them understand that they ought to put up or shut up. Bellanaboy was a cheap option whereby only a couple of village communities need be destroyed and just a few hundred lives put at risk.
Shell are well known for their care for people and the environment and have only been responsible for a relatively small number of murders and only a few thousand hectares of environmental destruction. They are often represented at important meetings and dinners in places like Manchester and they give generous support to well-meaning politicians and always use recycled brown envelopes.
The government think it is important to get the refinery built as quickly as possible – even though the planning approval is not yet complete regarding a number of technical aspects, including cold venting of the gas, for which an environmental impact statement has yet to be produced and an E.P.A. licence has yet to be granted. There are also legal aspects with on-going court proceedings and probable infringements of the EU Habitats Directive.
So, there we were at Bellanaboy last Friday with all roads blocked by lines of gardai, except for access of Shell vehicles. The quiet crowd of peaceful protestors were mostly locals including OAPs, mothers and their children exercising their right to free speech and use of the public highway as they attempted to picket the refinery site and put over their message to Shell that there is a better way and place to bring in the gas.
Then Maura Harrington, a 53 year-old local school teacher and mother of four, drove her car up to the garda line and switched off the engine, indicating that she would like to be allowed to continue along this public road. Someone started pushing the car forward at a dangerous speed approaching one mile per hour and the gardai, not having been properly trained in dealing with such a situation, panicked. Some drew their batons and started beating car and nearby people and others started pushing, kicking and punching any protestor within reach. I witnessed a pensioner being thrown to the ground and stomped upon – possibly he was thought to be a dangerous subversive. On being helped by friends to his feet, he raised a blood covered hand towards the gard with the video camera saying in a plaintiff voice “get this on film – your handiwork”. This was the only occasion that I saw anyone raise so much as a finger towards the gards who quite simply behaved like an ill-disciplined bunch of thugs. Not all of them – some were only trying to obey orders and hold back the crowd – their’s not to reason why – fair play to a local woman who berated them saying that they should be ashamed – they are supposed to be protecting the local community from the criminals, not vice-versa !
Fine Fail honorary spokesperson Enda Kenny claims that a number of Sinn Fein members were agitating the protestors – I would like to state a counter-claim that a number of Fine Fail members amongst the garda ranks were goading them into unnecessary violent action. Mr Kenny thinks that the government were right to use force against these hard-line peaceful protestors and they will definitely get his vote at election time !
Bertie Ahern says that the time for negotiation is over – not a problem for Shelltosea supporters since, as luck would have it, negotiation has never actually begun. Bring on the riot squad ! These people need a good beating to knock that peaceful community-spirit nonsense out of them.
What needs to be realised now - by everyone - is that police forces throughout the world act in similar fashion - they love to use force if their government bosses say it's OK. Also local communities throughout the world object to being trodden roughshod by governments that think they can impose their will without fair consultation - they will not be beaten into submission. The government is supposed to represent the people of the country - not the worldwide shareholders of multi-national corporations - the only way forward is consultation and negotiation to find a compromise solution that allows the gas to be brought ashore with minimum damage to the community and environment. Of course, even a refinery at sea will cause environmental damage and some disruption of coastal communities, but, if we must have the gas we will have to put up with this. This is the compromise solution proposed by Shelltosea supporters who have made it clear time and again that they are prepared to discuss options. So the choice is now in the already blooded hands of the Taoiseach - negotiation or more blood ? Sad to have to wonder if he might just be foolish enough to make the wrong choice.
Shell's cops (kindly provided by Bertie) deal calmly and professionally with this daunting 53 yr old school mistress being pushed along at close to one mph
This protesting gardening enthusiast received a thumping at the hands of gardai - he was probably sowing the seeds of discontent !
Neolithic action near neolithic site