"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.”
In Belmullet district court on Monday 20th February, 6 campaigners were convicted of a total of 13 charges between them with fines totaling 3,035 euros. While this went on, local residents blocked Shell's haulage route between Bellanaboy refinery and the compound in Glengad.
Monday was the beginning of a week-long special sitting for anyone arrested in the last year for protesting against Shell's Corrib Gas project. Yesterday 6 out of 19 people's cases were heard, and all 6 were convicted of every charge they faced. A bench warrent was issued for one person who was unable to attend court. So 12 people are left to be heard, some of them with 4 or 5 cases each.
Around 1pm a group of local residents decided to block the haulage route to Glengad, and were thrown off the road by Gardaí. The usual camera person Terence Conway was up in court in Belmullet, so the Gardaí took advantage of the lack of cameras and were fairly rough with people. One woman was thrown into a ditch.
The last special sitting dealing with campaigners against Corrib resulted in 24 of 27 people being acquitted. So far this week, the Judge has not accepted any of the defense arguments.
At one stage when one defendant questioned the level of force that had been used on the protesters, Superintendent Patrick Diskin responded that "Public order situations are never pretty. pushing and shoving sometimes has to happen to ensure people don't get hurt."
Gardaí refused to arrest local people on the roads on Monday, instead using brute force. Yet they are happy to criminalise outside supporters in their effort to further isolate the community of Erris.
Stay tuned this week on shelltosea.com and twitter to find out what happens with the rest of the cases.