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SHELL’S GIANT tunnel-boring machine was towed from an isolated crossroads in north Mayo yesterday evening after a massive 12-hour operation by Mayo County Council and oil company experts to remove it.
The 170-tonne truck and machine had been stuck at the narrow Glenamoy crossroads since it jack-knifed there early on Tuesday morning.
At 4.30am yesterday more than 100 gardaí escorted a convoy of heavy vehicles to the crossroads for the operation, which involved widening the road to facilitate the removal of the truck.
The machine, which is called Fionnuala, after one of the four Children of Lir, was brought to the main project site for the refinery at Bellanaboy and not to its original destination, where the sub-sea tunnel is to be dug for the raw gas.
Another massive truck, also stuck at the crossroads behind the jack-knifed one, reversed the two miles back to the refinery to ensure a similar incident would not occur again.
Apologising for any inconvenience caused to locals, a spokesman for Mayo County Council said “the overnight operation was due to protester activity”. He said the local authority wished to assure people that “there was no concern regarding the load-carrying capacity of the Glenamoy Bridge”.
A spokesman for Rossport Solidarity Camp said the gardaí had implemented checkpoints from about 10km away at Bangor Erris before dawn yesterday.
Veteran campaigner Maura Harrington was arrested at a checkpoint and the rear window of her van was smashed when she declined to get out. The van was subsequently impounded and Ms Harrington was detained at Belmullet Garda station but released later. She was charged with public order and driving offences.
In a statement, Shell EP Ireland said it “apologises once again to the local community and to all road users who were inconvenienced by this incident”.
“The operation to remove the vehicle, which was carrying part of the Corrib tunnel-boring machine, was successfully completed at approximately 3pm this afternoon. This was carried out in consultation with the gardaí and Mayo County Council,” Shell said.
Meanwhile, local residents continue to question the council’s assertion that the proper permits exist for this 170-tonne lorry to cross the tiny bridge at Glenamoy.
Betty Schult said she had travelled the round trip of 100 miles to Castlebar yesterday to view the permit by appointment with the assistant county secretary, only to be told it had been removed from the file and would be provided on Tuesday next