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From: "Jo Makepeace" (
Subject: SchNEWS 595, Friday 6th July 2007
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 20:00:38 +0100



Major construction is scheduled to begin on the controversial Shell onshore gas refinery in County Mayo, Ireland within the next month. The planned refinery and the high pressure pipeline, which would supply it with unprocessed gas from the offshore Corrib gas field, have been bitterly opposed by local residents and their many national and international supporters since it was first proposed in 2000.

Shell and their partners Statoil and Marathon had hoped to have the facility in operation by 2003, but massive local resistance has meant that, four years on, the development is still in its infancy. An impressive feat considering the odds; the Irish state has backed the multinationals all the way, changing and ignoring planning and environmental protection laws (See SchNEWS 549) and transferring huge numbers of police to the area to suppress the protesters (see SchNEWS 564 and 585). With the resistance camp having already celebrated their two-year anniversary, this weekend marked two years since the imprisonment of the Rossport Five (see SchNEWS 505). It also saw the end of the preparatory phase of the development process as peat extraction from the site was completed.


The Corrib gas project seeks to pipe volatile unprocessed gas dangerously close to dwellings and through several SACs' (special areas of conservation), supposedly under the protection of EU law. The gas would then be processed at a refinery built on unstable bogland, situated within the catchment area of Carrowmore lake which provides the drinking water for 10,000 people. Even before construction, preparatory work for the development has seen consistent breaches of World Health Organisation recommended maximum amounts of aluminium in discharges that flow into the lake.

The refinery would be a huge source of air and water pollution. It would use both flaring and cold venting procedures (the release of gas into the atmosphere without burning). Cold venting would annually release between 200,000 and 300,000 kg of methane, a major greenhouse gas, with the risk of vapor cloud explosions and acid rain. The site would hold over 5,000 tonnes of dangerous chemicals. Among these would be the highly toxic methanol, over 1,500 tonnes of which are expected to be lost each year. It is presumed that this will be emitted along with the waste water due to be pumped into Broadhaven bay, "an important area for a number of marine mammal species and for other marine life" according to a report commmissioned by Shell (and subsequently swiftly suppressed by them). The waste water would also contain heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and cadmium. Any waste not pumped into the bay will drain instead into the reservoir, Carrowmore Lake.


Immediately prior to the imprisonment of the Rossport Five, a picket of all Shell sites in the area was established. The campaigners managed to prevent any work on the pipeline or refinery taking place for 18 months. In October 2006, the government approved a massive and costly police operation to allow work on the refinery to recommence (see SchNEWS 564). Since October, resistance has continued unabated with daily protests outside the proposed refinery site. Despite regular beatings and harassment by cops, campaigners have stuck to non-violent means of protest such as sit downs, blockades of vehicles, site invasions and more recently, quite a successful lock-on which had the Irish police scratching their heads for some time. There are currently ten separate court hearings related to the campaign waiting to be heard in the next week or so.


On June 12th, Shell contractors, aided by police, arrived unannounced to install a portacabin on to private land in Pollathomais. When landowner Paddy McGrath denied access to his property, in a typically overt display of their allegiance to corporate power, the police cut open the lock on the gate to allow Shell access to the land. Around sixty friends and neighbours of Mr McGrath attempted to prevent Shell's entry. Some climbed on top of the digger while others stood together to hold the gate shut. The police acted swiftly and violently to facilitate entry to the land. People were pulled from the digger and the senior officer, Supt. Joe Gannon, instructed the driver to use the machine to force the gate open, trapping people between the gate and an embankment. A large number of people sustained injuries.

The next day, following the threat of an injunction if they failed to remove the cabin from the land, Shell agreed it had been sited illegally and promised to remove it. Unfortunately, the removal of the cabin was not the end of the McGraths interaction with Shell's boys in blue and over the following weeks the McGraths were subject to regular harassment and intimidation by the local police. Last week Paddy suffered a stroke and is now in intensive care. It was almost certainly stress related.

In the final days of peat haulage, scenes at the morning picket became increasingly heated as the community responded to Mr McGrath's hospitalization. There were repeated attempts to block the road, met with typical police brutality. In general, the policing approach seems to focus on violent removal of protesters rather than detention. An exception was a local lad who forced the police to carry out a muddy eviction after he had blocked the road by occupying one of the peat lorries.


On Friday (29th) peat extraction from the site was completed. However, this only marks the beginning of the construction process and the battle is far from over. The community are as determined as ever to prevent the refinery's development. Their experience of the past two years has seen faith in the democratic process tested to its limits and increasingly there is an acceptance of the need for a diversity of tactics if the development is to be stopped. As the construction phase begins it seems likely that direct action will increase. As a local resident told me, "We've had enough and I'd welcome anyone who wants to support us in preventing this development from going ahead."

Winters in Rossport are long and tough and continuing construction work in the depths of winter will be difficult. Consequently, it is vital for Shell to complete as much work as possible over the summer months. So, if supporting a community-led campaign to protect a pristine area, combinied with digger diving and blockading fun'n'games reminiscent of the 90s all set in a beautiful remote seaside location sounds appealing. the Rossport Solidarity camp welcomes visitors and is an excellent 'busmans holiday' destination this summer. Train fares from the UK to Ireland start at around £25 return.

For more information contact Rossport Solidarity Camp -
tel (from UK) - 00353 851141170
email -

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