Garda gets Interpol aid on Corrib protesters

 

GARDAÍ POLICING the protest about Shell's Corrib gas project have enlisted the help of Interpol following an influx of eco-protesters into Mayo from the UK and continental Europe.

Interpol, the international police intelligence co-operation agency, is helping to identify some of the foreign national eco-protesters, whose number has significantly increased in recent weeks, according to Garda sources.

While there is no suggestion the protesters have been involved in criminal activity, The Irish Timesunderstands photographs of any protesters local gardaí do not recognise will be circulated to Interpol's member states in a bid to identify them and establish if they have been involved in similar international protests in the past.

A small number of foreign national protesters who have already been identified are believed to have taken part in a major demonstration in Kent in recent months. That protest has opposed plans for two new coal units at a power station run by German group EON. Most recently, protesters there breached security and entered the site in a bid to disrupt the project.

Many of the newly-arrived protesters in Co Mayo are from the UK and Germany. However, others have not yet been identified by nationality.

The increase in the number of protesters has also prompted senior Garda management in the area to request reinforcements of personnel from surrounding Garda districts.

The move to add personnel to the policing operation comes at a time when the overall cost to the Garda of policing the protest is well over €10 million. The security operation around the controversial project is now the single biggest ongoing policing operation in the country.

The cost of the Garda's operation looks set to exceed €15 million by the end of the year. This compares with the €20 million available for Garda overtime under Operation Anvil, which targets organised crime gangs across the country.

Gardaí in Mayo have also requested the presence of a naval vessel to assist in the security operation. The LE Orla moved into Broadhaven Bay on Friday lunchtime and remained there over the weekend.

Ten days ago eight protesters in wetsuits were arrested on public order grounds in the waters off the beach. Around 15 protesters were trying to stop work on the project when gardaí moved in and arrested the eight.

In a statement released yesterday, the Shell to Sea protest group said a "squadron" of its kayaks had paddled out to the LE Orlaon Saturday in an unsuccessful effort to speak to the ship's captain and crew.

"Shell to Sea marine activists are experienced in dealing with the Spanish, German, Dutch, Royal and US navies. This fresh threat from the Irish Navy is totally disproportionate to the legitimate protest, which will continue against the Shell Corrib gas project in spite of this unprecedented development."