"The government has relinquished control over the offshore areas of our industry. Norway was tough regarding oil companies from the start. You now have an almost embarrassingly large pension fund. The situation for Irish communities, however, is as in Ogoniland in Nigeria - oil is a curse,”
FIVE Shell to Sea campaigners who blockaded the entrance to the Bord Na Móna peat depository site at Attawalla, Bangor Erris during a ‘lock-on’ protest were eventually arrested nearly five hours after the protest began because the fire brigade had to use specialised equipment to cut them free.The five defendants, Ms Kate Kirkpatrick, Anna Rudd and Emma Jackson all of 114, Millfield Road, Clapham, London; Ms Julie Ryder, Nine Ladies, Recs Cross Station, Lees, Matlock, and Eoin Ó Leidhon of Meelagulleen, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry all appeared before Belmullet District Court charged with wilful obstruction, failure to comply with the direction of the Gardaí and with threatening and abusive behaviour. They all denied the charges.The court heard that the protesters went to the site at approximately 7am on June 5 last and lay on the ground forming a circle before putting their arms into a Wavin sewage pipe. They locked themselves into position by connecting a climbing hook, which was wrapped around their wrists, and connected it to a bolt in the middle of the metre-long pipe. There were five of these pipes in total and they had been laced with concrete which was reinforced with steel rods.A Garda video of the protest was shown in court and it showed the protesters’ supporters being brought across to the other side of the road. The Gardaí could be heard being told that if they tried to physically remove the protesters it could result in serious injuries to the protesters.The fire brigade arrived at the scene at 9.20am and Superintendent Pat Doyle said they had difficulty getting them free because of the concrete and steel and because of the care being taken. All the protesters were eventually released at 11.40am and were subsequently arrested.Garda Paula Cullen said she arrived at the scene at approximately 8am and there were approximately 20 people around the gate. She said they were directed to leave the area and informed of the consequences, but refused. She said she felt they could have released themselves but they refused and when they were eventually released, she arrested Miss Emma Jackson at 11.40am.Under questioning from Mr Alan Gannon, solicitor for the defence, Garda Cullen said she believed that Miss Jackson could have freed herself if she wanted to and that her behaviour was reckless, to cause a breach of the peace. She said she charged Miss Jackson at 3.30pm and said the delay in charging her was because she had to wait her turn in using the PULSE Garda computer system and it took her ten minutes to prepare the charges.Garda Martha Lohan said about 200 lorries entered the peat depository every day and when they were released she arrested Miss Kirkpatrick at 11.38am and charged her at 3.42pm. She said that by lying on the road they were reckless but accepted if they could not unlock themselves they could not move. Garda Hugh Egan said that when some of the protesters were released by the fire brigade they tried to reconnect themselves to the bolt and he had to stop them. He arrested Mr Ó Leidhon at 11.46am and charged him at 2.28pm. He said that if the need arose the protesters could have released themselves.Garda Amanda Cunningham said that when she arrived at the scene three lorries were unable to gain entry to the site. She said she arrested Miss Rudd at 11.42am and charged her at 3.10pm. When she was asked by Mr Gannon if the protesters were photographed in order to create a database, she answered ‘yes’. Garda Evelyn O’Mahony said the protesters were blocking the vehicles and people from going into the site and she arrested Miss Ryder at 11.44am and charged her at 2.55pm. Mr Gannon asked her if Miss Ryder had used threatening words to her. She replied that she had but could not give examples of those words.Miss Kirkpatrick said the purpose of the protests was to highlight the increasing levels of aluminium going into Carrowmore Lake, which, she said, was caused by the removal of the peat from the Bellanaboy site. She said this was the first time she engaged in this sort of protest, and after half an hour her arms became numb and very painful and she was unable to unclip the hook. She said each protester had a carer to ensure that they did not get dehydrated and their protest was peaceful on private lands.She denied that their actions were reckless and claimed that the protesters had a good relationship with the security guards and some even supported their campaign. When asked by Judge Mary Devins what would have happened if the Gardaí decided to leave them there, she replied that they would have stayed there as long as possible and she was confident their support team would have looked after them.Miss Anna Rudd said the protesters were determined to stay at the entrance to the depository for as long as possible and were disappointed when they were released. She said when she was brought to the station she was placed in a cell and was told they would be re-arrested or fined if they did not have their photograph taken.After hearing all the evidence, Judge Devins adjourned the case until the next sitting of Belmullet District Court on September 12 where she will hear the closing submissions from the defence and prosecution.