Garda chief warns Shell protesters of estuary dangers


MAYO’S CHIEF superintendent has appealed to Corrib gas protesters to desist from taking risks on water as Shell undertakes geotechnical work for the proposed new pipeline route.

Chief Supt Tom Curley, head of the Mayo division, confirmed that three arrests had been made this week on Sruwaddacon estuary, where Shell contractors have deployed two jack-up platforms to drill up to 80 boreholes.

“This estuary has one of the strongest tides on this coastline after Strangford Lough, and it is extremely risky for anyone to be protesting near this equipment,” Chief Supt Curley said.

“People have a right to protest, but there is also a question of health and safety which we have to be mindful,” he said.

Three people have been arrested and later released this week under public order and maritime safety legislation, and a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

One of the three, Dublin electrician and Rossport Solidarity Camp supporter Eoin Lawless, claims he was manhandled out of the water when his kayak was capsized as he approached one of the platforms on Wednesday evening. He also claims a garda tried to block his airway and that he had to receive medical treatment after his arrest in Belmullet Garda station.

Chief Supt Curley refused to comment on the allegation, but said all his officers “are working within the law”, and “any individual with a complaint has a right to take that up in another forum”.

The investigative work in the estuary, which is a special area of conservation (SAC), has been licensed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley – even though Shell has already submitted its revised application for the pipeline route to Bord Pleanála.

Rossport Solidarity Camp supporters, who have initiated a “beat the boreholes” campaign to stop the work, claim the Corrib gas developers are trying to degrade the SAC in advance of a reopened Bord Pleanála hearing on the revised pipeline route on August 24th. Shell EP Ireland has denied this claim, and Mr Gormley’s department says the foreshore licence for the work includes 12 conditions related to protection of the marine environment and wildlife.

Erris fisherman Pat O’Donnell, who was jailed in February for seven months for offences related to the Corrib gas protest, is due to be released today from Castlerea prison, having served just over five months.

Shell to Sea is hosting a rally in Co Roscommon to mark his release. Shell to Sea supporter Niall Harnett is still serving a sentence in Castlerea for offences related to the protest.