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From: "Jo Makepeace" (
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007 19:38:11 +0100
Subject: SchNEWS 603, Friday 21st September 2007

national anti-Shell day of action at Rossport (Ireland)


Last Friday a national day of action was held at the proposed gas refinery site in Rossport, County Mayo, Ireland. Hundreds of people from around Ireland joined forces with the local community clearly demonstrating their opposition to the development. The state mobilized and the protesters numbers were equaled by a team of hundreds of over zealous cops. The day began with a sit down protest outside the refinery gates, but after an hour or so it evolved into a site occupation as the gates were kicked in and around 100 folk entered the site. They were met by security, some carrying iron bars. Fortunately protester numbers were high enough to dissuade the hired goons from taking the violent option.

A second fence (erected the previous day) was scaled by most of those that had entered the site and machines were occupied and work brought to a standstill. Shortly after, large numbers of police entered the site and forcibly evicted those inside. Violence perpetrated by police included one of the senior officers present taking a running kick at a well known campaigner while he was held down on the ground. Protesters then held a sit-down protest on the site and were eventually removed one by one by the police.

As is standard practice at Bellanaboy protests there were very few arrests. Shell don't want the publicity of protest court cases and the police seem happy to use violence as a substitute for detention and those that were arrested have been released without charge. Protests continued outside as demonstrators attempted to block trucks. But the huge numbers of police and their aggression towards protesters made successful blockading difficult - a significant number of protesters sustained injuries but fortunately no one was seriously hurt. The mainstream media made much of rumors that one cop had suffered a broken nose, however, he was spotted mid afternoon, uninjured, going to the pub!

Although work wasn't entirely stopped for the day the message to Shell and their government backers was clear - there remains massive local and national opposition to the development. Meanwhile solidarity actions occurred across Europe including, Madrid, Berlin, Belfast, Reading, London, Brighton, Bristol, Leeds and various locations across Ireland. Follow up national days of actions have been called for the 12th of October and 9th of November.

Things aren't looking great for Shell on the legal front either as they continue to face massive opposition to their plans to build a gas refinery and high pressure gas pipeline in County Mayo, Ireland. At present, although construction of the proposed refinery site is ongoing, Shell have still not been given full permission to operate the plant, nor do they have an agreed pipeline route. In addition, there are significant structural deficiencies with both the concrete and steel used so far in construction, and engineers have still not been able to design the pressure reduction valve - an essential component of the project.

Shell are currently waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency's decision (expected later this month) on whether they should grant an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) license for the refinery. Considering the extent to which the government has facilitated the project so far and the questionable independence of the EPA (it's Director appeared in an early promotional video for the project in her capacity as a member of the Irish business and employers group) it is almost certain that the license will be granted.

However, Shell were dealt a severe blow last month when An Taisce (the Irish National Trust) joined the campaign against the plant. They have publicly stated that the local reservoir, which provides the drinking water for over 10,000 people, will have to be closed as a source of drinking water if the refinery goes into operation. They maintain that on these grounds alone the IPCC license should not be granted, and if it is, they have vowed to take the matter to the European courts.


Meanwhile, over the past few days, Shell have announced a shortlist of three potential pipeline routes for the project (they were forced to change their original route due to massive resistance, including that of the 'Rossport 5' who were jailed for refusing Shell access to their land - see SchNEWS 595). However, Shell's hope that altering the route would bypass opposition appears misguided. Environmental groups are angered that all possible routes are within designated environmentally sensitive areas under EU habitats directives. In addition, several people on the new routes have already stated in the local press that they will go to prison rather than allow the building of the pipeline on their land. So, it looks likely that 'Shell to Sea' cases will continue to clog up the courts.

Last week saw several cases were brought before Judge Mary Devins. In contrast to her response to the last 'Shell to Sea' cases she dealt with, where she dubiously jailed three local fishermen, she was noticeably more balanced in her approach - although this may largely be due to her having little choice after the total failure of the police to fabricate coherent prosecution cases! She dismissed one case against a prominent protester charged by police for obstruction after hearing several police statements that not only contradicted each other but also the police video. Another case bought by the police, against the local 'Shell to Sea' spokesperson, was adjourned after the Judge claimed there was not enough evidence to reach a verdict.

Bizarrely, instead of throwing the case out, the judge asked for more witnesses to be found. Five protesters who had taken part in a lock-on at the proposed site were found guilty of one charge out of three and sentenced to 100 hours community service. Judge Devins also announced in court that she had received hate mail relating to 'Shell to Sea' cases, leading one barrister to ask her to stand down because 'a reasonable person' might assume that this could prejudice her decisions. She refused and stating that she's as independent as they come. Sceptics remain unconvinced considering her husband's position in the Fianna Fail government who back the project!

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