May 9th, 2009 saw a successful Day of Action in the fight against Shell. Although the illegal fences in the Glengad compound still stand, the peoples' action on Saturday made a statement – the people of Erris will continue to say no to the Corrib gas project, and supporters of their struggle will continue to travel to stand alongside them.
After a week of unseasonably heavy winds and rain, the sunshine on Saturday morning seemed like a sign of good luck for the planned Day of Action. Supporters from Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, and Galway trickled in to the Rossport Solidarity Camp throughout the day.
Gardai and IRMS security guards also began to gather in the area. Around 4pm, Gardai set up checkpoints on either side of the village of Glengad. Anyone heading to the Shell compound in Glengad other than residents of the village – including locals living in different villages in the area – was told to park and go on by foot. The only exceptions made to this rule were the Integrated Risk Management Services security guards, whose transport vehicles were allowed to drive through.
A local resident and Shell to Sea campaigner challenged the legality of the roadblock in Pullathomas and attempted to push past it to allow a supporter's car to pass through. He was arrested, and released later that same day.
Despite the roadblocks and heavy police presence, by the planned gathering time of 6 pm a crowd of over 70 people had gathered near the Shell compound in Glengad. Over the next hour the group grew to approximately 120 as car loads of people walked from the checkpoints to the gathering place. The general mood was calm and social as people milled about chatting and planning. There was a bit of nervous tension as people looked down into the compound and saw the large numbers of Gardai and security guards.
As the crowd grew, someone suggested that everyone gather in and form a circle to make a plan. Two groups were formed. One group walked down the field to the beach, around the side of the compound closer to the cliff face – near where the fences were pulled the week before. The other group walked past the front gates, to a field on the other side of the compound and pulled at fences near where Willie Corduff was attacked two weeks ago.
One group walked along the cliff face, avoiding the high tide, to arrive at a section of fencing near the cliff. Thick wire ropes were thrown up onto the fence and the group pulled. Security guards were better prepared this week than last week, when they produced a saw and a utility knife and recklessly reached through the fences to cut the ropes. Security guards produced bolt cutters and began to cut the ropes. Despite the relatively small threat posed by the protesters, guards were alarmingly rough with people near the fence, causing several injuries and much bruising. Gardai arrived shortly after the ropes were cut and formed a line between protesters and the fence. A woman who sustained injuries attempted to read the number of the security guard who bent her finger backwards and pinned her arm against the fence, but Gardai pushed the group away from the fence.
As soon as the other group walked down the field, a line of Gardai formed – nearly as many Gardai as protesters. A number of chains were thrown up, and the fences were pulled at for a few minutes before security guards cut the chains and Gardai closed the line in front of the fence. One person was punched in the stomach by a Garda and several others sustained injuries to their hands.
At this point, five people were arrested. Two were arrested on public order charges of obstruction, two for breach of the peace, and one on criminal damage charges for possession of items with an intent to damage property. Another person was arrested on criminal damage charges later in the day. They were detained in a Garda van on the Shell compound for two hours before being brought to Ballina where they waited another four hours to be processed.
After the fence pulling attempts were over, people stayed in the area for another hour or two. Some of the barbed wire fencing was removed again, and the Gardai were repeatedly told in detail exactly what the local people think of them for protecting Shell's construction site rather than the people of Ireland.
As the group slowly trickled back up the field, followed by an equal number of Gardai, five or six young local men turned back around and sprinted down the field and around the construction site, followed by shouts of support, then other runners, then a slightly startled group of Gardai. This extra burst of energy late in the day expressed the general mood around this Day of Action – this is a group of people who will not give up, who will not tire, who will face all odds in this struggle. In the end, everyone left as they arrived – peacefully, and in good spirits after having successfully built momentum for the upcoming weeks of resistance.
Latest Glengad work
Shell have ramped up in their work at Glengad in the last 2 days. Yesterday a suction dredger, the HAM 311 owned by Van Oord began working in Broadhaven bay. There are currently also 2 jack-up barges moored off Ballyglass pier. On the site in Glengad they are currently constructing the fencing to extend down onto the beach which will probably be attempted in the coming days.
So if you are thinking of coming to the area, now is definitely the time.
Community in Mourning
The local community is in mourning after the death early Saturday morning of Stephen Conway of Inver. Stephen is the son of Kathleen and Val Conway and a nephew of Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway. Stephen was killed in a car crash near Belmullet along with Garda Terry Devers.