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Letters to the Irish Times re Gardaí baton charge of Shell to Sea

14th Nov 2006, Irish Times
On Friday evening I saw TV3's news footage showing a line of gardaí approach, batons raised, a line of protesters whose legs were then systematically belted until they fell to the ground. I saw gardaí surround a car and methodically smash the windscreen and the side windows. I saw people being thrown recklessly over fences and into deep ditches. I cannot get these images out of my mind.
Later I heard our Taoiseach say the rule of law must be obeyed. He wasn't speaking out against violence or vandalism, but against the people protesting. If these extreme tactics are now legitimate policing procedures to enforce rule of law, how was it we did not hear of Shell workers or executives being hospitalised during the illegal construction phase of the pipeline, or even having their way to this unlawful activity blocked by police each day? The Government has done a deal with Shell in giving it a resource that we as a nation will probably badly need in 50 years' time, with no consideration paid to the people who live in the area.
Nelson Mandela could have been speaking directly about the people of Mayo when he wrote (Irish Times, Nov 4th): ". . . they must have a right to a voice. They must not be made to sit in silence as 'development' happens around them, at their expense. True development is impossible without the participation of those concerned".
Time after time this country's experience has shown, even in the darkest days of the Black and Tans, that no amount of violence or official propaganda can silence the voice of the people.
The concerned must be able to voice their concerns without fear of baton charges. Furthermore, we have beleaguered communities all around this country who are crying out for adequate levels of police protection against murder, arson and intimidation.
How is it that the interests of an oil company can be put so far ahead of the needs of our citizens? - Yours, etc,
BÉBHINN NIC LIAM, Cook Street, Dublin 8.
A Chara, - Yet again, in an entirely predictable tirade, Michael McDowell is trying to use the difficulties in Bellanaboy as an excuse to attack Sinn Féin. In doing so, he is also misleading the public. Michael McDowell claims that the Shell to Sea campaign is led by Sinn Féin. It is not. He does not have to take Sinn Féin's word for it, he could take a trip to Mayo and ask the members of the Shell to Sea group who is running their campaign.
They will tell Mr McDowell quite clearly that they are well able to run their own campaign and are the best advocates of their case.
Here is a factual representation of our involvement. Some five years ago I attended the inaugural meeting of the Council for the West committee on Corrib gas.
I subsequently become involved in that group. At all times I put forward Sinn Féin's position and along with the others made a positive and proactive contribution to the meetings.
Sinn Féin has always taken a positive view on the possibilities of developing the Corrib gas field. We argued then and continue to assert that the terms negotiated by Ray Burke, Bertie Ahern and others amounted to a giveaway (warranting further investigation by the way) and that Sinn Féin would renegotiate in favour of the Irish people as a whole and of the region in particular.
At this year's ardfheis we went further and resolved to ensure that when we are in a position to do so, we would ensure that the Irish people took a stakeholding in any development of our oil and gas reserves. As a further illustration of how we positively viewed the development of the Corrib project, we also argued that any development of the gas pipeline infrastructure be all-Ireland in nature.
The third element of our position (and it was in that order that we presented our position) was that the communities most affected by the development be fully included in the decision-making process and that their genuine health and safety concerns be paramount.
If people are in any doubt about this, I would invite them to check the records.
Michael McDowell may well disagree with our position on all of this. But it cannot be argued that we have jumped on any bandwagon or are doing anything other than asserting our position.
So, what has all of this been reduced to? Gardaí are being misused to baton people off the road.
The Minister is justifying all of this and the Government of which he is a member remains culpable of creating this mess and selling the people of Ireland short. - Is mise,
VINCENT WOOD, Cathaoirleach, Cúige Chonnacht Sinn Féin, Claremorris, Co Mayo.

Posted Date: 
14 November 2006 - 12:25am