road protests (current)   |   movement links

From: Jo Makepeace (
Date: Sat, 6 Sep 2008 01:46:52 +0100
Subject: SchNEWS 645, Friday 5th September 2008

Rossport actions against Shell pipe-laying ship (Ireland)


More from the ongoing David vs Goliath battle in Ireland between protesters in Rossport, County Mayo, and would-be gas pipeline layers, Shell.

When we last left the story (SchNEWS 643), locals and activists from the recently re-established solidarity camp, armed with nothing more than canoes and inflatable boats (albeit some of them novelty ones), were trying to block the giant pipe-laying ship Shell have hired, the Solitaire, from completing its work in the short window available in the ship's busy schedule. If work could be obstructed or delayed long enough, the Solitaire would have to move on to complete other contracts and Shell would be left playing solitaire until next year at the earliest – the onshore pipeline is a bit pointless without the offshore bit to connect it to.

A week of action in Broadhaven Bay (nominally a site of special conservation), saw scenes of mayhem as a ramshackle flotilla of protesting pirates moved in to take on the huge dredging cranes brought in to rip up the sea bed in preparation for the pipe laying.

Despite the life-threatening abandon with which work was attempted, with Gardai and Shell security happy to stand by and watch the cranes attempt to dump tons of rubble on to protesters heads (happy that is until moving in to make arrests) – the protestors sheer persistence has effectively seen dredging work halted.

This has meant that the Solitaire has been unable to dock in the bay yet, over a week after a Marine & Public Information Notice had announced it would, and has had to remain holed up in Donegal Bay, some 5 hours away.

This can't have gone down well with Shell management because the Shell security forces, or rather the Irish national Gardai police, have called in the Navy to assist. This is the first time the Navy has ever been used in an operation against civilian protests. It must leave ordinary people scratching their heads as to why a 39-man gun ship is needed to police a few people in inflatable boats, but the window of opportunity to complete the work is closing rapidly as autumn draws closer. Shell know it and the protesters know it and Shell know the protesters know it, so they're getting desperate.

But Shell faces more than just the Rossport protesters and the project is also being delayed by a combination of the resistance of several fishermen, bad weather and the company's own incompetence.

Fishermen Pat O'Donnell and his sons own over 800 crab pots located where Shell intend the Solitaire to lay the Corrib pipe. Shell stated last week that it would move the gear temporarily to a "safer location£ if the O'Donnells and several other fishermen did not move the gear themselves. However, the O'Donnells maintain that theirfishing license takes precedence over the rights of Shell contracted sub-sea vessels. Unsurprisingly their right to continue work has not been supported by the state and the men have been forced to maintain a near permanent vigil over their fishing gear to prevent Shell from moving it.

Heavy rain and winds are also slowing work and gales are forecast for the weekend. Plus, word on the street is that Shell recently discovered that they bought the wrong type of heavy-duty cable (necessary to pull the pipe several kilometres through the sea) and work cannot continue until the right cable has been sourced. Meanwhile, the motley crew of international activists resident at the solidarity camp is growing daily, prompting the local Gardai to enlist the help of Interpol in identifying them. Actions are ongoing: stopping work in Shell's compound, community pickets at the gate to prevent workers entering and kayak visits out to the Navy in attempts to ascertain why they are present in the bay. In a PR disaster for the armed forces, when activists approached the gunship on Wednesday it fired its engines, weighed anchor and sped away. The following days headlines named the Navy vessel the "Shell patrol ship" and a slightly embarrassed navy official was forced to state (despite video evidence) that the gunship 'did not flee protesters'.

It is still uncertain when the Solitiare will arrive so people are needed for at least the next few weeks. Get to the camp - spirits are high and you're guaranteed an action-tastic time on land or sea!

* See

road protests (current)   |   movement links