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Shell to Sea Halt Illegal Shell Works for a Day

Jen Debender - Indymedia

Today, Wednesday 21 October, Shell to Sea stopped work at an illegal Shell site for the entire day when a campaigner climbed onto the arm of a digger which was laying bog mats, in preparation for drilling works.

Shell moved into Glengad this morning, preparing to drill bore holes in a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Shell to Sea maintain that this work is illegal, because Shell do not have planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for the onshore pipeline yet; it is due within the next day or two. Shell confirmed this morning that the only authority they are relying upon to carry out drilling in Glengad is permission from the landowner, but in order to drill on an SAC, Shell must get the permission of the Minister for the Environment under the the EC Habitats Regulations. Mayo County Council was not aware that there was any work being carried out in Glengad today.

In October 2007 Shell were proven to be illegally drilling on an SAC, and Minister for Environment John Gormley ordered them to remove their works and return the habitat to its original form. Commenting on this illegal drilling, Gormley said “The actions of the Shell contractors in entering a Special Area of Conservation and carrying out works without authorisation are a matter of serious concern to me. I find it unacceptable that this has occurred at a time when my Department has been making special efforts to keep in communication with Shell during the course of this project to date.”

Shell are now trying to do it again in the same SAC, two years later- however they've found it impossible with people climbing onto their machinery and occupying it. An entire day's work was stopped today when locals residents entered the field where Shell was working. Shell was using a digger/forklift to place bogmats on the field, preparing for heavy machinery to be able to drive onto the field. Campaigners and locals stood around for a bit watching this happening, and before long the Gardaí showed up with their cameras and their Section 8. The Gardaí were told that the work going on was illegal, that Shell had no permission to be drilling in an SAC. Unsurprisingly they were only interested in making sure the Shell lorry with the bogmats got through. Overall this was the extent of the Gardaí's involvement (besides the usual harassing and peering into car windows). The Guards seemed to want to leave it with IRMS to deal with people on the private land (where their Section 8 doesn't apply).

When people started entering the field, IRMS initially got rough, shoving and throwing people around, but Jim Farrell (their boss) told them to “Calm down lads, let them go” and he had to 'reign them in' a few times. One campaigner sat on a pile of bog mats for a period of time, while the Shell workers continued laying bog mats from other piles and left him there. After a period of time, they needed the pile of bog mats the person was sitting on, and as a handful of IRMS surrounded him to try and move him, another campaigner made a run for the digger and climbed up the arm. Immediately Dimitry S, an IRMS employee who has testified against Shell to Sea people in the past, was pulling at the campaigner's leg, despite him being in a precarious position. His boss, Jim Farrel, had to tell him to stop and let go of the person's leg, because it was clearly unsafe. The digger-occupier stayed up there for six hours, and there was lots of support from the community. Locals showed up bringing tea and sandwiches for the crowd that had gathered on the road. Once all the workers had gone home and it was clear that a day's work had been successfully stopped, the digger-occupier got down from the arm without much hassle.

Overall it was a good day, though IRMS seems increasingly frustrated, blatantly antagonising the local community. After the digger-occupier had gotten down and as other locals were leaving the field, one of the IRMS quietly dared one of the local people to 'just try and do this when it gets dark'