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Home | Friday 22nd August 2008 | Issue 643

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The protests against Shell's Corrib gas project in Rossport, Ireland, saw waves of direct action this week. More work has started on the pipeline with a special pipe-laying ship arriving last weekend with just two weeks to do its job. But it's yet to start - so if protesters can stop or delay it over the next week, the project will be set back a long way and cause massive problems for Shell. Protesters are asking people to come and help them resist at this crucial time...


Yesterday (21st) at 10am, fifteen Shell to Sea activists entered the water at Glengad Beach as dinghies, surfers and swimmers surrounded the machine and stopped work. Three Gardai in a boat began arrests and taking the boats an hour later. With no regard for health or safety, they wrestled with protesters in the water. On at least one occasion they worked together with the Shell security team who grabbed a protester and held him until the Gardai got there.

Then three protesters moved onto a rock in the sea near the dredging operation. At around 11.40am the dredging machine started picking up large amounts of debris from the sea bed and dumping it within inches of the protesters - as the Gardai stood and watched - before then arresting all three.

Mary Jones, who witnessed events said, "It was so dangerous. The huge dredging machine continued working right over those lads' heads and then the Gardai half drowned them. It's amazing no one was killed. It's a crime that the Gardai can work for Shell like that."


With the gas refinery half built, Shell are now starting work on the accompanying pipeline.
In late July, the company set up a compound on Glengad beach (former site of Rossport Solidarity Camp) to begin preparatory pipeline work. A causeway was constructed and over half a mile of 10 foot high steel fencing was used to cordon off a large part of the beach. Many local people resisted Shell's occupation of Glengad and destruction of the pristine Broadhaven Bay (a Special Area of Conservation). They were met by a joint team of 40 Gardai and 70 Shell specialist security - 13 were arrested and one hospitalized for several weeks after being injured in Garda custody.

This week, in anticipation of the arrival of the world's largest pipe laying ship, the Solitaire, a week of action was called. Booked up solidly for the next two years, it is believed to have just two weeks before going off to the next job. Marine & Public Information Notices had announced the Solitaire would arrive in Broadhaven Bay last weekend, but at present it is still docked over 5 hours away in Donegal Bay.

Last Saturday, a team of kayakers - some fresh from the Camp For Climate Action's Rebel Regatta - began the week of action by reclaiming Glengad beach. To a crowd of cheering onlookers they entered the compound via the water, hanging a banner inside.

On Monday, Rospport Solidarity Camp was reborn and a large marquee and tents were set up in Glengad, just 100 metres from the compound. In a display of things to come, as soon as the marquee was up, Shell's compound was invaded.

On Tuesday, when the Solitaire still hadn't arrived in the bay, three kayakers went over to Donegal to meet her there. They paddled 1200 metres out to sea to deliver a letter to the Captain of the ship asking him to reconsider the ships involvement and informing him that if he continued he would meet strong resistance in the waters of Rossport.


The story behind this latest stage in the Corrib project is filled with the usual dose of political corruption and intimidation tactics. When Shell first moved into Glengad it appeared that planning consent for the work had not been granted. Later, Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan stated that the authorisation had been given, but the government had made an "oversight" in failing to publicise them. Oversights such as this are a defining feature of the project and exactly what the Green Party minister was so critical of in opposition before he got into office.

This key section of the onshore pipeline at Glengad was granted permission outside of the usual planning process. Eamon Ryan used the Gas Act to exempt this 200 metres of the onshore pipeline from the planning process, which is arguably the most dangerous part of the whole project. Subject to the pipeline's highest pressures (potentially up to 345 bar, the highest pipeline pressure in a residential area anywhere in the world), it runs from the landfall at Glengad under Dooncarton mountain. Dooncarton mountain is notorious for landslides and the original landfall permission was awarded in 2002 before the devastating 2003 landslide that saw 200,000 M3 of debris washed off Dooncarton, destroying houses, bridges and roads. Despite the obvious dangers, no review has taken place since.

Aside from this, no planning permission exists for the onshore pipeline. The proposed route runs 9km through protected blanket bog habitats, a Special Areas of Conservation, Specially Protected Area (protected habitats under the EU habitats directive), common and farmland. However, activity at Glengad and the arrival of the Solitaire demonstrates that Shell are certain that permission is already in the bag. Perhaps this is because they know the government will be using the Strategic Infrastructure Act to get round any troubling resistance. The act allows chosen planning consents to bypass the local democratic process and be forced through from above. It was surely not just co-incidence that this handy piece of legislation was first proposed by Bertie Ahern after a meeting with Shell where the company expressed concerns at the Irish planning process!

Since Shell occupied Glengad beach, their small army of security have been an ominous presence in the area. The unidentified security (often wearing balaclavas), use video cameras and binoculars to monitor anyone on, or near, the public beach, including children. The company hired by Shell is headed by a former member of the elite Irish Rangers Unit and while the company claim that current members of the defense force are not part of the operation, it is known that other former military personal have been hired.

Meanwhile, Shell has used its usual tactics of divide and rule and bribery to silence resistance from local fishers to the project, overcoming what the company views as one of the final hurdles preventing the Solitaire beginning work in the bay. The local fishers universally expressed concerns over the location of the discharge pipe and its outfall diffuser (certain to pollute both Broadhaven Bay and inshore waters), and disruption to their work during the laying of the pipeline. However, last week, after long negotiations, a significant number of fishers have agreed to keep quiet in return for compensation. On the other hand some remain resolute in their opposition. Fisherman Pat O'Donnell stated that he would continue fishing in the path of the Solitaire. He added that even if a court order was granted, if the state wanted to stop them they would "have to send [him] and the other fishermen to gaol."

Rossport Solidarity Camp is a hive of activity this week, with new recruits and random boats and water equipment arriving all the time. Actions against the Solitiare will continue for the next few weeks. Sail and rail tickets from anywhere in the UK to the area cost just 35. Pack yer arm-bands and join the fun.

* For background see SchNEWS 611, 603, 595

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