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Face off in Pollathomais: a report on the last two days events.
Yesterday afternoon Gardai violently removed protesters attempting to stop the illegal instalment of a Shell portacabin on the land of publican Paddy McGrath near Pollathomais, Co Mayo (see initial newswire report of the assault). This afternoon a letter from Mr McGrath's solicitors giving persons responsible for the cabin until 2pm to move it, advising that the failure to do so would result in an injunction. A full report on events of the last two days follows.
At approximately three o clock yesterday afternoon, an excavator and a jeep towing a metal portacabin arrived at McGrath’s pub Pollathomais accompanied by a number of Gardai and attempted to enter onto land belonging to the pub owners. They told Mr McGrath they were going to place the portacabin down by the pier on what is his land, accessing through a private roadway. No prior contact had been made with the landowners about this. It was put to Mr McGrath as a statement rather than a request and when he asked who wanted it installed and why he received no answer.
They insisted that the council had given permission for the portacabin to be installed and that the pier was public facility, ignoring the fact that they were trying to move it through Mr McGrath’s land and intended to place it on his land. As far as Mr McGrath was concerned, he was perfectly within his legal rights to refuse access and received legal advice to that effect.
Even after forcing the gate open the protestors showed spirited resistance, one managing to climb into the bucket of the digger and another onto the portacabin being pulled by the jeep; the drivers continued down the roadway regardless. Others attempted to block the vehicles by lying down in front of them or climbing on top of them. The policing of the situation was vigorous even by the standards Shell to Sea protestors have unfortunately become accustomed to, with many members of the crowd suffering injuries.
This morning, from about six o clock onwards a crowd began to reappear at the gate. The police presence then became more visible, with one group of Guards blocking the McGrath's roadway and preventing people from walking it; a curious practise seeing as the previous day they had argued that it was a public right of way and they therefore had the right to access it. Among those barred was a woman looking for a pair of glasses which had been lost the day before. This did not stop people from using the real right of way which is located a little closer to the pub to get to the pier.
The events of the past forty eight hours have been yet another example of how hollow talk of “community consultation” rings in relation to the Corrib gas project. There was certainly no consultation with the landowners, nor were they even done the common courtesy of being asked if their land could be accessed or even told who it was that the portacabin facility was to be installed for. Nor was there any consultation with the people in the Pollathomais area or the wider community. Once again, the Erris residents are being railroaded and trampled upon without explanation or apology. Unfortunately, the metaphorical trampling of their rights is now accompanied by the physical trampling of their bodies by a police force who seem to be embracing their role as a strongarm gang for corporate interests with more and more relish.
It is expected that many of those who came out to support their neighbours today and yesterday will be attending the RPS meeting tonight in Belmullet, where possible new pipeline routes will be “revealed“. Although the purpose of the portacabin at Pollathomais pier is still a mystery, it is widely believed that it is connected to attempts to survey the Pollathomais area for suitability as a pipeline route.