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13 Arrested so Shell can continue illegal work
Tuesday July 22, 2008 23:44 by Rudiger - Shell to Sea
In Glengad, today 13 people were arrested when they confronted Shell over digging in a Special Area of Conservation.
13 anti-Shell protesters were arrested at Glengad on Tuesday, while challenging Shell on the permissions they had to do excavation and other works around the site of the proposed landfall area of the pipeline. The arrested people included Goldman Prize winner Willie Corduff as well as Shell to Sea trailer hostess Mary Horan.
Related Links: Previous Indy coverage
All the 13 were arrested around 2pm and brought to Belmullet garda where after about 3 hours were released without charge with files being sent to the DPP. One of the people arrested has been brought by ambulance to Castlebar Hospital after seeing a doctor in Belmullet station. The mood of the arrestees after release was definitely one of resolute defiance. After the 13 were arrested, Shell attempted to re-commence the excavation work however another group of around 20 locals arrived and halted the work for the remainder of the day.
At approximately 10:30 this morning a Shell digger began clearing the topsoil from the area around the cliff-face to begin the procedure of creating a causeway down to the beach. Roughly an hour later they were requested by the assembled group to produce the permissions but were only met with silence from the line of security which at first tried to let the digger continue but eventually the digger retired to behind security gates.
While Shell have received a Foreshore Licence in 2002 by the then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources for the offshore part of the pipeline this Licence is only valid up to high-water mark. However Shell are seeking to do work that would involving creating a pipe pull-in facility that would lay the pipeline up to the proposed pressure reduction facility which will be over 30m back from the cliff-face.
Planning permission for all of the onshore pipeline section is currently before An Bord Pleanala since May 2008 under the new Strategic Infrastructure Act and it is believed that an Oral hearing will be heard before An Bord Pleanala provides the necessary rubber-stamp.
However in the meantime it is believed that all the work currently being done in Glengad doesnt have the necessary permission. Shell have now installed about 5 large port-cabins which include office and cafeteria facilities on the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) only about 300m away from where the Rossport Solidarity Camp stood, until they were removed less than a year ago.
After about an hour standoff, the gardaí led by Superintendent John Gilligan arrived at the scene, parking all their squads, jeeps and paddy wagons inside on the Shell compound on the SAC. After speaking with Shell personnel, Supt Gilligan approached the group and was told about the concerns over the permissions for the work. Supt Gilligan was told that members of the assembled protestors had met with Conor Ó Raghallaigh, Director of the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) on the previous day and that it had been agreed that the necessary permission were to be sought from the Dept of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources and the Dept of Agricultuture & Fisheries.
However, the Departments hadnt replied to any of the queries sent so far, and so it was requested by the protestors that the work be halted until the situation was clarified. After again speaking with Shell personnel, Supt. Gilligan said that Shell were willing to stop for 2 hours so queries could be made into the permissions granted, however he was told that it was believed that this would not be long enough. Supt. Gilligan was also reminded how last October he had attempted to push through drilling work in the area for Shell that was challenged by locals and which was subsequently found to be illegal. Supt. Gilligan then once more spoke with Shell personnel inside the compound and after warning all the people assembled, people began to be arrested.
I would like to say that I have been trying to establish the legality of these works for almost 2 weeks now, and have sent off countless emails and made a lot of phone calls and am still no clearer than when I began (and many other people have hit blank walls too). I have been dealing primarily with NPWS which is the section of the Dept of Environment whose duty it is to oversee work on SACs and other sensitive areas. I was first of all told on the phone that the work was under the Foreshore Licence and I would receive a detailed email which would clarify my concerns.
However no clarification has been forthcoming and now NPWS have decided to wash they hand of it and have started referring any queries to the other 2 departments involved. The whole episode once again shows way that this project has been split up from start to finish and how no person or department will take any responsibility once questioned.
It should be noted that NPWS in their report seeking the removal of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, stated that site where the camp was would take 10 to 15 years for the site to fully recover and recommended that the camp be removed and the habitats allowed to recover naturally. Now NPWS turn a blind eye when a whole compound (which is probably illegal) has been set up.
One of the most infuriating sights of the day was the 2 NPWS rangers who hung out with the Shell paid ornithologist on the beach for the day watching over the sand martin colony while only 10 metres away a digger had begun destroying the cliff-face. Luckily however the people of the locality have long given up hope that any of these authorities will protect either them or their environment and took action.
If you wish to join the fight and visit the area, there is space to stay in the Rossport Solidarity House (http://www.rossportsolidaritycamp.110mb.com).
The fight will go on regardless but any help is invaluable.