"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
Come and help to stop Shell’s onshore raw gas pipeline
Shell today began to cut down a Coillte plantation in the village of Leenamore, Co. Mayo. This surprise move marks the beginning of their attempts to prepare the 4km stretch of land between the Aughoose tunnelling compound and the Bellanaboy refinery. Despite a large Garda and private security presence, campaigners entered the tree felling area and halted work.
Shell starting this section of the pipeline was completely unanticipated both by local campaigners and those of us living at Rossport Solidarity Camp. Rumour had it that the clearing of the plantation might not happen until later in the year. As it happened many of us had planned to take the day off actions today to tend the camp gardens, carve new wind turbine blades, bake bread and work on other projects. The day turned out quite different to how we planned...
When we arrived at Leenamore at 11am we saw that they were cutting down trees at two different sections of the road and setting up a machinery storage compound. There was a heavy Garda presence including members of the public order unit with no number tags. There were twenty Gardaí and at least fifty of Shell’s private security IRMS attempting to guard the tree line. There was seven of us, basically meaning we were outnumbered by about 10 to 1.
A few of us tried to get over the fence or into the trees to prevent the tree cutting from happening. Five of us succeeded in breaching lines of security to impede work at different times. Some of us were carried back over the barbed wire fence by security guards. The security guards had real difficulty in removing us from the area as the ground was extremely uneven and boggy. They kept stumbling as they carried us out and it was really dangerous for the security themselves. The Gardai were standing out on the road and wouldn’t let us stand on the road.
After trying to get in over the fence along the road a few times, several campaigners broke away to try to enter from further away and disappeared in the woods.
To everyone’s delight, one campaigner reappeared about an hour later, on top of a tree-cutting digger. Another campaigner, also reappeared a hour later, without his trousers! His explanation was that the ski-suit he had been wearing had been causing rustling as he approached security lines so eventually he had to resort to removing them and run in his thermals to make it to climb a tree that was in the path of Shell’s destruction. As a newcomer to the camp, this is his experience of trying to stop Shell in his own words;
“I arrived at the camp a few days ago. It’s my first visit. I spent the first day helping to block lorries and got a good chance ot be active against Shell’s destruction. This morning everyone was surprised that Shell were starting work on the forest. A few of us went away to come at the machinery from another angle. We crawled through the woods towards the area they were cutting slowly. As were crawling towards the digger I darted off left. All the security were shouting ‘hold the line’. I kept running until a group of security broke away from a group at the road and started running after me. I ran back into the woods with them running behind me shouting, so I went to ground and hid for 20 minutes. Then crawled down a bit and looked up to see where they were and they were all around me. I had to run accorss a big gap where they could all see me and into another patch of woods. With them all running behind me I got into the trees again. I reached the first suitable tree to climb just to the right of the tree-cutting-digger. By the time I was up the security guards had run past me but couldn’t see me. Fifteen or twenty of them were below filming and wandering around. They shouting at me, things like ‘are you going to come down?’ and ‘Chop him down!’. I climbed right to the top to see where the digger was. I swung to another tree and then to another to get a bit closer to the digger as it moved. I stayed up for about 45 minutes as the digger broke up the trees beside me. The security guards started to get more and more angry with me. They started shaking the tree and getting sticks. I said, ‘I’m really going to want to come down with you doing that!’. I negotiated with them to let me come down safely and agreed that one of them would escourt me out of the woods. I met up with the other campers and camp back to get a cup of tea and some food. A few local people called in to catch up with us. I feel good to be here to so far. I’ve met some good people. I found it good to be doing actions with energetic people who have been fighting this campaign for a long time.”
The other camper up on the tree-cutter stayed up to stop work until 6.30pm before coming down. This camper reported that one of the IRMS security supervisors that had been running after him in the woods, as he got to the tree-cutter, had injured his ankle and had eventually been stretchered off the site. The campaigners were not arrested as the cutting was happening on private land.
New camp members are always welcome and even if you don’t feel like crawling around in the woods in your first few days there is plenty of other things to do...
Rossport Solidarity Camp is calling for support in advance of this coming Friday the 13th of January. Friday is the first Day of Solidarity of the new year, when people from around Ireland are invited to join the protests for a day to show their support for the ongoing resistance to the Corrib Gas Project.