Eight Corrib gas protesters arrested over 'most dangerous' demonstration


A SENIOR Garda officer has described a Corrib gas protest off the north Mayo coastline yesterday as "the most dangerous yet", and has issued an appeal to objectors to "take a step back from the water's edge".

Supt John Gilligan of Belmullet Garda station was commenting on a demonstration yesterday morning which led to the arrest of eight people in wetsuits off Glengad, Co Mayo, where Shell contractors are working on a landfall for the high pressure gas pipeline.

Shell EP Ireland said it "recognises people's right to protest, but would urge everyone to take sensible health and safety precautions in the vicinity of vessels and the site at Glengad".

All eight people were released without charge last night but Supt Gilligan said he had "serious concerns about the safety of protesters, workers and members of the Garda Water Unit" during the demonstration.

The action began at about 10.55am yesterday when some 15 Shell to Sea supporters surrounded machinery to try and stop work at the Glengad landfall. Shell to Sea said members of the Garda Water Unit "entered the sea to wrestle with protesters in the water".

"On at least one occasion, they worked together with the Shell security team, who grabbed one protester and held him until the gardaí reached them," the group said.

"Despite the clear dangers, the gardaí did not ask for the work to stop," it said.

Shell to Sea spokesman Niall Harnett said it was part of a week of action against the pipeline, which began earlier this week when three kayakers in Donegal Bay delivered a letter to the captain of the ship Solitaire, hired for Corrib gas offshore pipelaying work, asking him not to enter Broadhaven Bay.

The new community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin, which has backed a compromise proposal for the project, has written to three Government departments expressing concern about the work at Glengad in a landslide-prone area close to Dooncarton mountain.

Work was taking place above the high water mark, beyond the scope of any foreshore licence, and in a manner "contrary to the environmental management plan", it has said.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which awarded the foreshore licence, said that its engineering division was "monitoring the works" and "has been requested to provide a report on the storage of the material".

The Corrib gas partners are due to start laying the offshore pipeline linking the wellhead to the Glengad landfall.

They have not, however, received Bord Pleanála approval for a modified onshore pipeline route.

A group of fishermen who did not support an agreement brokered with the company to remove gear from the offshore pipeline route received an ultimatum to take their gear out by noon yesterday.

One of the group, Pat O'Donnell, said he had a constitutional right to fish in the area.

An Bord Pleanála has recently asked Shell for more information on its application for the modified onshore pipeline route.