"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
A giant tunnel boring machine belonging to Shell, which became stuck on Tuesday after the lorry it was being transported on jack-knifed at an isolated Co Mayo crossroads, has been removed.
A spokesman for Mayo County Council said the junction at Glenamoy crossroads near the villages of Rossport and Carrowteigue was now cleared and that traffic was back to normal.
In a statement Shell E&P Ireland said it “apologises once again to the local community and to all road users who were inconvenienced by this incident”.
The truck was part of a convoy of four lorries which were transporting specialist tunnelling equipment bound for the Sruwaddacon estuary in north Mayo. The longest raw gas subsea tunnel in western Europe is to be built at the estuary, linking the controversial Corrib pipeline to Shell’s inland refinery at Bellanaboy.
More than 100 gardaí escorted a convoy of heavy vehicles to the isolated Glenamoy crossroads in north Mayo at about 4.30am this morning in a bid to free the tunnel boring machine.
A spokesman for Rossport Solidarity Camp said the gardaí implemented checkpoints from about 10km away at Bangor Erris.
He confirmed that veteran campaigner, Maura Harrington, was arrested at one of the checkpoints, and that the rear window of her van smashed when she declined to exit it. The van was subsequently impounded and Ms Harrington was detained at Belmullet Garda station.
When asked yesterday if she would desist from protesting to facilitate the removal of the jack-knifed lorry, Ms Harrington said “where there is opposition, there is resistance”.
The solidarity camp spokesman also said “there was a lot of harassment” and drug searches.
While a Garda spokesman confirmed this morning that a woman was arrested earlier and detained at the Belmullet station, he declined to comment any further for operational reasons
Meanwhile, local residents have questioned the ability of the boggy road, and the narrow old bridge, to withstand the weight of heavy removal vehicles.
Mary Corduff, who lives in Rossport, a village cut-off for a time earlier this week due to the incident, has challenged the local authority’s assertion that the proper permits existed for this 170-tonne lorry to cross the tiny bridge at Glenamoy.
She said a council engineer told her that this bridge had not been surveyed. Reportedly, the jack-knifed lorry proceeded to the Glenamoy crossroads after it failed to make a turn to its destination at Aughoose, the site for the subsea tunnel works that will connect the raw gas to the inland refinery.
“This whole fiasco is further proof that this community is under siege and has had valid worries for 12 years about Corrib gas. We cannot trust the people in authority and there is no transparency,” Ms Corduff said.
Spokesman for Pobal Chill Chomáin, John Monaghan, claimed two of An Bord Pleanála’s conditions for granting planning permission for the controversial project had been flouted.
“Condition 21 stipulates that all roads affected directly and indirectly by the project must be surveyed and Condition 13 states that relevant information must be in the public domain. Over the last few days residents have been given the run-around over the special permits granted for this operation,” Mr Monaghan said.
In a statement released this evening, Mayo County Council said the “L1203/R314 junction has been successfully completed this afternoon. Road traffic at this junction is now back to normal and all restrictions have been removed.
"The council wishes to assure the local community that there is no concern regarding the load carrying capacity of Glenamoy bridge.
“Mayo County Council would again like to thank the local community for their co-operation and regrets any inconvenience that may have been caused during the recovery operation.”