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Update straight from the front line - 11 September 2008

Ig | 17.09.2008 22:32

After a truly momentous day in Erris yesterday,things are much calmer this morning. The Solitaire has been confirmed to be stationery in Killybegs Co Donegal. Police presence in the area is still very heavy this morning although the general atmosphere (aside from at the compound gates) is slightly less tense. Maura Harrington continues her courageous hunger strike at the compound gates with round the clock solidarity from both locals and the camp. It is still not clear how exactly the Solitaire sustained the damage to its "stinger" The stinger is DEFINITELY slightly damaged in one section however this reporter can confirm that it was not so damaged on Tuesday night when it arrived in Broadhaven Bay and that conditions all throughout Tuesday night were absolutely calm both at land and on sea (remembering that the Solitaire can operate in extremely heavy seas unhindered due to its size). The cause of the damage is a heavily speculated upon matter and I will not add to other than the fact that AllSeas Ltd may be contractually relieved from its obligations under a damge clause in the contract.

Update from 11 September 2008 Lock-on protest The 5 people who locked on in atrocious conditions for 6 and a half hours from 5.30am to midday and blocked the road were all released without charge from Belmullet Garda Station. 4 were held for 6 and a half hours and 1 was released after 4 hours. They report that they were treated well in Garda custody and that their needs were attended to correctly. Up to 15 people were in attendance in solidarity at one point or another during the day,Gardai refused to allow any to stay inside the walls of the (public) sation,including a solicitor who is part of the protests. The lock-on participants are all in good form today and proud of their actions and a good day for the campaign. Pat O'Donnell and son Pat O'Donnell and son as has been previously reported were again arrested yesterday morning to prevent them exercising their legal entitlement to fish the waters of Broadhaven Bay. The pair were again arrested under the "blank cheque" that is Section 8 of the Public Order Act 1994. This was the second time the pair were arrested in 24 hours and released without charge,a spurious use and flagrant abuse of the law A possible route to stem this behaviour would be to seek an injunction in the High Court to prevent the Gardai from using the law in this way,this however is a very rare achievement and is unlikely to be heard. Maura Harrington's hungerstrike Maura continued courageously with her refusal to eat until the Solitaire leaves Irish territorial waters. She has been giving interviews to media at intervals and has been chatting with supporters when the police are at a safe distance. Gardai were,at 4am on Wednesday morning ,revving their engines extremely loudly right in front of Maura's car in order to disturb her sleep as much as possible. Supporters have maintained a constant presence since the beginning of the action at 5pm Tuesday. The hunger strike continues SOLITAIRE We do not know whether or not the Solitaire will return. We remain on high alert. All solidarity in whatever form and wherever is needed and appreciated. __________ As has come to be expected, the latest work has been facilitated through intimidation, violence and political corruption. At the end of last month, a joint team of 40 Gardai and 70 Shell specialist security moved onto Glengad beach to enable the construction of a causeway and the erection of 10ft high steel fencing half a mile long, cordoning off the area. No notice was given and Shell fails to mention its occupation of the public beach in its publicity material. Working together, the Gardai and security forcibly removed around 30 local people who attempted to stop work. Another day, 13 people were arrested for trespass on the beach, one of whom was seriously injured and hospitalized for over a week after being injured in Garda custody. While the beach was ravaged by Shell’s activity, local people also witnessed pods of dolphins forced out of the bay by Shell speed boats.

Initially it appeared that the work was illegal as consents for pipeline work at Glengad had not been granted. It later emerged that the authorizations had been given, but the government had failed to publicize them. Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan claimed that the failure to publicize the consents had been an “oversight”. “Oversights” such as this characterize the politics of the project and are exactly what the Green party minister was so critical of in opposition.

This key section of the pipeline was granted permission outside of the usual planning process. Eamon Ryan used the Gas Act to exempt what is arguably the most dangerous part of the whole project. The 200 metre exempted section will be subject to the pipeline’s highest pressures (potentially up to 345 bar, the highest pipeline pressure in a residential area anywhere in the world) and runs from the landfall at Glengad under Dooncarton mountain. The original landfall permission was awarded in 2002 before the devastating 2003 landslide that saw 200,000 cubic meters of debris washed off Dooncarton, destroying houses, bridges and roads. In spite of the obvious dangers, no review of the permission has taken place since this time.

Pipeline work is ongoing despite the fact that planning permission for the remainder of the modified onshore pipeline route has not yet been granted. The proposed onshore route runs 9km through protected blanket bog habitats, Special Areas of Conservation, Specially Protected Areas (protected habitats under the EU habitats directive), commonage and farmland.

Since the occupation of Glengad beach by Shell in late July, the company’s bright yellow security army are a constant source of intimidation in the Broadhaven Bay 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 offshore pipeline. However, last week, after long negotiations, a significant number of fishers have agreed to keep quiet in return for compensation. Others however, remain resolute in their opposition. Fisherman Pat O Donnell stated, “I believe the health of the marine environment for future generations is more important than short term compensation” He says that himself and the other fishers who refused to accept Shell’s bribe will continue to fish in the path of the Solitaire.

And its not just the locals who are refusing to bow to the might of Shell, the ocean is also fighting back. Dredging operations for the offshore pipeline have seen several boats in difficulties, marooned on rocks in the choppy waters of Broadhaven Bay and in need of emergency repairs. So, with a call out for action, dissident fishermen and turbulent waters there is reason to believe the Solitaire won’t be in for an easy ride…

Now is the time to come to Mayo to support the campaign. Check out the Rossport Solidarity Camp website for travel and accommodation info.

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