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Clashes force Shell to halt marine survey

The Irish Times  - Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent
Shell E&P Ireland postponed marine survey work on a possible new pipeline route in north Mayo yesterday following clashes which left 20 locals and two gardaí injured at Pollathomas pier.
The handling of the confrontation has been condemned by residents and defended by the Garda.
Meanwhile, consultant for Shell, PJ Rudden of RPS, said he expected to identify a final modified route for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline by next October and it would then be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.
While the final route would be "safe" and "further away" from housing than the original route, every one of eight possible routes had "difficulties" under the EU Habitats Directive, Mr Rudden said. The legality of the original route was rejected by the High Court two months ago.
Both Shell and the Garda Síochána were issued with legal letters yesterday. The letters stated both were trespassing on private land when placing a structure at Barnacuillew, Pollathomas, on Monday night in support of marine survey work in Sruwaddaccon estuary by Shell. It has been described as resembling a "security hut" by solicitors for a Pollathomas landowner.
PJ Moran of the Shell to Sea campaign said it was a "miracle" that no one was killed or seriously injured.
A request to remove the structure by 2pm yesterday had not been complied with by the company as of last night.
Eddie Diver of the Erris Inshore Fishermen's Association condemned the company's actions, describing it as "bully boy tactics" once again.
Garda Supt Joe Gannon defended his handling of the situation. He said he had tried to speak to locals who staged a protest near Pollathomas pier, before ordering gardaí to clear access.
Supt Gannon said he was not aware the landowner's solicitor was trying to contact him by telephone at Pollathomas. The solicitor says he made two attempts in an effort to resolve the situation.
"Our only role was the right of access, and people sought to confront us," Supt Gannon said. "We pushed them out of the way."
He said one of his sergeants required eight stitches and a second sustained a knock on his head. A man in his 20s was arrested for alleged assault at the scene and was later released.
Supt Gannon said his own shirt was ripped and he had "muck fired" at him. He confirmed he now makes a video of everyone he speaks to with their consent, for his own protection.
He said the Garda Water Unit's patrol boat and two rigid inflatables will be stationed in Sruwaddaccon Bay for as long as Shell is surveying the area.
Shell E&P Ireland expressed "regret" yesterday that "a number of Shell to Sea protesters attempted to "physically prevent access" to Pollathomas pier, which was public.
Shell said it had a foreshore licence to survey Sruwaddaccon estuary as part of the "ongoing process" and "its commitment to find a modified route for the Corrib onshore pipeline", which it said was "honouring the recommendation of the independent mediator, Mr Peter Cassells".
RPS, which has been hired by Shell to work on a modified route, presented eight "corridor" options in Belmullet yesterday which will be narrowed down to four next month. Members of the Shell to Sea campaign were among those who attended.
© 2007 The Irish Times

Posted Date: 
12 June 2007 - 8:59pm