A SENIOR Garda in north Mayo has appealed for any protests against work at the Corrib gas pipeline to be peaceful, on the eve of two “days of action” planned by the Rossport Solidarity Camp.
The appeal was made yesterday by Supt Pat Diskin of Belmullet Garda station, who said he respected the “right to peaceful protest” and the “right of people to go to their place of work”.
Shell E&P Ireland has begun preparatory work on the pipeline route, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála in January but is the subject of a judicial review application by An Taisce and two residents before the High Court.
Shell to Sea and members of the Rossport Solidarity Camp, along with community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, have described as “provocative” the developer’s decision to proceed with constructing a compound as part of preparatory work overseen by private security staff, while legal proceedings are still in train.
However, Shell acquired its necessary consents to construct the pipeline from the outgoing minister for energy Pat Carey and new Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan on February 25th and March 25th respectively.
Two arrests were made by gardaí yesterday morning at Aughoose, the location of one end of the proposed tunnelling works to lay the high-pressure pipeline.
Two people, including a female protester who was secured to the underside of a private security vehicle overnight, were taken to Belmullet Garda station. They were released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Supt Diskin said gardaí were investigating reports of alleged assaults on two security staff shortly before 11pm on Tuesday, and the alleged theft of property from security personnel.
Shell to Sea has said protesters were assaulted and injured, several people received medical attention, and one campaigner was referred to hospital with suspected broken ribs after an altercation with a security guard employed by Integrated Risk Management Services.
Supt Diskin said he had “no knowledge of any injuries”. The security firm’s spokesman said “in keeping with our standard approach we spoke with the gardaí and made a full statement about events of the past 24 hours”. Supt Diskin said his “door was open” to groups in the area with concerns about policing of the project and he invited some groups to engage in discussions in recent weeks.
He said he was invited to a public meeting, but felt there was more value in holding discussions with representatives of various groups. “I totally respect any decision not to meet me,” he said.
Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman John Monaghan confirmed that invitations were issued by Supt Diskin. He said his group was waiting to hear back details, and agreed in principle to meet. He said residents had no advance warning of work and there were “at least 60 private security staff in the area”. It is expected to take two years to construct the pipeline route.
Shell to Sea spokesman Terence Conway appealed for support for the “days of action”.