"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
A large tunnel boring machine brought in by Shell to dig a 4.9km tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay inland to the Bellanaboy gas processing terminal is stuck at a crossroads in Co Mayo as it is too large to navigate the narrow roads.
Thee specialist tunnelling equipment was on its way from Dublin to the Sruwaddacon Estuary in north Mayo. It couldn't access the site at Aughoose because of its size and got stuck at the crossroads when it attempted an alternative route.
Mayo county manager Peter Hynes confirmed today that the local authority issued special permits several weeks ago for the heavy loads carried on the Shell lorries.
Mr Hynes said he could not confirm what weight is on the lorry but locals said it was carrying about150 tonnes.
Mr Hynes said expert personnel were still assessing the situation at the Glenamoy crossroads this afternoon, where one lorry from the convoy jack-knifed earlier this morning.
Earlier, there was a tense stand-off between protesters and gardaí as the machine made its way past Ballina and scuffles broke out with the huge Garda convey escorting it.
Two protesters initially blocked the road on the outskirts of Ballina during a “lock-on”, when they chained themselves to a drum filled with cement.
Gardaí with specialist cutting equipment cleared the scene, before Shell To Sea campaigner Maura Harrington and another 30 supporters against the controversial Corrib gas project blocked the road closer to Bellacorick bridge near Erris with a van.
“It was very violent and tense for about 30 minutes,” said one onlooker.“The protesters tried to climb on top of the van.There were scuffles with guards and people’s clothes were torn. One woman had her trousers torn off. Then about 50 gardaí held the crowd back until the convoy passed.”
A Garda spokeswoman said four arrests had been made. Two men who were charged with public order offences in Ballina last night will appear in court tomorrow. A further two men, who were arrested today in Belmullet are still being held.
The machine was held up again when more campaigners staged another lock-on about 10km from its final destination.
The equipment, still being transported from Dublin Port on three 40m trucks, is being escorted by four Garda vans carrying members of the Public Order Unit, other police vehicles and mini-buses of private security.
Protesters gathered at the port and followed the slow-moving convoy over the last two nights.
Con Coughlan, of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, said the machinery was going to destroy a beautiful estuary and a special area of conservation.
He claimed protesters were “detained illegally” and held in a car park instead of being arrested by gardaí.
“It was important we show there is still opposition against this given the amount of resources the State is willing to put behind it,” he said.
“There are loads of guards here and we were still able to delay it.
“We are putting those resources behind the richest company in the world when we have no money for the elderly people on hospital trolleys.
“There is something wrong in that world.”