Friday 24 November 2006

TDs regret cancellation of Corrib gas protest

Members of the Oireachtas who support the Shell to Sea campaign yesterday expressed their regret that a protest planned for Friday could not go ahead and criticised the use of batons by gardaí during a recent demonstration at the site by the protest group.

Responding to the announcement that organisers had called off a protest at the site of the Corrib gas project on "health and safety grounds", the group of TDs and Senator David Norris called for continued support for the campaign.

At a press conference in Dublin, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said the Government "really has to ask itself how have we come to this point".

He said he had attended some of the daily protests at the site in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo, and described the actions of gardaí during the last "day of protest", on November 10th, as a "real disgrace".

Gardaí used batons to disperse protesters who had come from across the State and one person was hospitalised.

Mr Norris said the gardaí had "engaged very clearly in brutality" and it was a "disgrace that the police force of a state be used against the Irish people, in the interests of a multinational corporation". "This is a watershed in civil rights. This was and would be a peaceful protest. It's a disgrace."

Chief Supt Tony McNamara of the Mayo Garda Division said following the incidents that he was "particularly disappointed and sad" about them. Two gardaí had sustained minor injuries - one was punched in the eye and another suffered a strained finger. He said the protesters were well organised and their numbers had been boosted by about 20 "non-natives".

Martin Ferris, TD and Sinn Féin spokesman on natural resources, said his party would continue to support the Shell to Sea campaign.

He reiterated his support for the campaign's call for an independent commission of inquiry into the dispute.

"We would call on the Government to recognise the potential of the commission of inquiry proposal and for the thousands of people out there who have supported this campaign from the beginning to keep up the pressure."

A spokesman for Shell to Sea said that suggestions by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, that the campaign had been infiltrated by outside interests was "nonsensical".

"The safe exploitation of the Corrib gas field is a national issue as the gas is a national resource."

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