ANGRY protesters chained themselves to a van and blocked a road yesterday to prevent builders from working on the controversial Corrib gas terminal.
The blockade by Shell to Sea campaigners halted access to the proposed gas refinery site through Bellanaboy Road, Co Mayo, for more than five hours.
A two-prong protest was held both at Bellanaboy and outside the Justice Department in Dublin as tensions escalated following the sentencing of three Co Mayo fishermen for the assault of a garda during a stand-off.
It is vital for the preservation of Erris and the protection of its people that all work on the "destructive and exploitative project" be stopped immediately, protester John Monaghan said.
Mary Corduff, whose husband Willie Corduff was one of five men jailed for 94 days in 2005 for their opposition to the onshore gas pipeline, said there was a lot of local support for the three convicted men.Opponents of the pipeline route claimed they were acting to ensure the terminal would not go ahead in its current form. They have pledged to continue with their objections.
The site of the planned €200m gas terminal has been the centre of long-running objections and protests by locals and environmental activists.
At the Justice Department, members of the Shell to Sea campaign group handed over a letter for Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, asking that gardai stationed at Bellanaboy police the protests and refinery work in an even-handed manner.
In Mayo, two Shell to Sea supporters, Terence Conway and Bob Kavanagh, lay down on the road outside the terminal, chaining themselves to each other and attaching themselves to a van.
The pair had blocked the road between 9.30am until just after 3pm, when fire brigade workers cut their chains amid cheers from protest supporters.
The men were immediately arrested and taken to Belmullet Garda Station.
Meanwhile, another road in Knocknalower, Co Mayo, was blocked for several hours to Shell traffic. However, other vehicles were allowed pass through.
The campaigners have stepped-up their protests after three Mayo men were found guilty in Belmullet District Court on Wednesday of assaulting a garda sergeant. They were fined €500 each and sentenced to three months in prison.
At Swinford District Court yesterday, the men, Patrick O'Donnell (49) and his son Jonathan (21), of Porturlin Shore, Ballina, Co Mayo and Enda Carey (21), Porturlin, Ballina, were released on bail. They are appealing against their convictions.
Campaigners opposed to the onshore pipeline are holding further protests at 2pm today in O'Connell Street, Dublin. Last month, Shell outlined eight alternative routes for the Corrib Gas pipeline. The move was made in an attempt to break the deadlock in the ongoing dispute over the onshore route.
Tom Shiel and Louise Hogan