At around 1.30pm yesterday a small group of locals approached where the drilling was going on and sought from the workers the permission they had to drill on the SAC. There was a portacabin, 2 trailers, 2 jeeps and the drilling machine inside temporary fencing along with about 10 workers around the site. An RPS employee told the group that they believed they weren’t on the SAC and that the maps they had received from RPS showed they weren’t on the SAC. She admitted that they didn’t have permission to drill the bore holes on the SAC. Vincent McGrath then showed her the maps he had from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) which showed that they were in fact on the SAC and that they would have to stop they’re work. He informed her that in-order to drill bore holes on an SAC, the permission of the Minister for the Environment was needed and that until this permission was produced no further work would be allowed to proceed.
There was then about an hour stand-off in which no work was done until the gardaí arrived. Once about 20 gardaí had arrived at the scene, the new superintendent for Belmullet John Gilligan went over to the workers and told them to start up the machines again and continue with the work. He then proceeded over to the protestors where he was informed of the situation regarding the SAC, and that illegal work was being carried out. He basically said that he didn’t care about any of it and warned the protestors that if they didn’t leave the area, they would be removed. The protestors said that they wouldn’t leave and that if they were doing something wrong then they should be arrested. Supt. Gilligan then said that the protestors had 5 minutes to consider they’re options following which they would be removed. He then retired back to the group of gardaí that were on one side of the fencing. After about a minute the gardaí began surrounding the temporary fencing, however before they could close off access, a member of Rossport Solidarity Camp jumped over the temporary fencing and climbed the drilling machine. This seemed to take the gardaí by total surprise and it took them a few minutes to regroup while the workers turned off the drilling machine. It also changed the focus of the gardaí, with the gardaí now trying to coax down the climber instead of trying to forcibly remove the protestors.
On a few occasions, Supt. Gilligan asked the climber to come down because of safety to himself, but the climber said that he felt in no danger. After about a hour, Superintendent Gilligan told the protestors that if the climber came down then the equipment would be packed up and removed from the site. Vincent McGrath then succeeded where the guards had failed in talking down the climber. I believe it is a sign that the gardaí knew they are on shaky legal ground, that the climber then was allowed to rejoin the group of protesters without ever even being cautioned by the gardaí.
It should be pointed out that for the last two mornings, the gardaí have removed protestors from the gates leading to the drilling site even though it has been pointed out to them that the drilling is going on illegally in an SAC and also that the road that is being used down to the shore doesn’t have planning permission. Last week, 3 locals also stopped Shell from drilling on a right of way in Rossport that is about ½ mile away from any of the 3 remaining proposed routes. This again shows that Shell and their stooges believe they can get away with anything they like and they would too only for the commitment and strength of the people who won’t let their community be turned into a Shell fiefdom.
Related Link with photos: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/84723
Yesterday at around 1pm, Shell to sea protestors stopped Shell’s illegal work for the second day running. Eight RPS workers were found drilling at Leanamor on the route where Shell had previously illicitly laid parts of their pipeline. The workers were performing a similar drilling operation as in Glengad the previous day, only this time it was adjacent to the boardwalk, which has still not been removed despite Noel Dempsey ordering them to take it up when Shell were found to have breached his consent.
Two days ago the RPS crew stopped working on a special area of conservation (SAC) after a member of Rossport Solidarity Camp clambered up on top of a drilling machine. Wednesday saw the same tactic deployed by a local farmer this time only moments before the Gardai turned up. The rest of the group entered inside the fence the surrounded the drilling machine which was promptly turned off by the RPS employees. The RPS employee in charge of the drilling operation was then asked to produce the relevant permission for the works in question, also as there is questions over who owns the land she was also asked to produce proof that they had permission to be on the land. It is believed that this is public land that is being maintained by Coillte. Seeing as Coillte’s stated policy is to “consult widely with stakeholders in formulating forest management policies and objectives to ensure there is community support for the company’s activities”, it was felt that it was necessary to find out what is being done on this public land. Even though the RPS employee said that this information would be produced it never was.
About an hour and a half after entering the site, the Garda in charge negotiated that the farmer would climb down in exchange for the RPS crew halting their works and removing their equipment from the area.
The man climbed down and the locals followed the crew and the drilling machine through the bog and up to the end of the boardwalk. It was at this point that the situation changed as the crew left the machine on the inside of the compound. Locals felt that this was not the arrangement that the officer in charge had agreed to. The Gardai and Shell security guards felt otherwise which lead to a standoff. One local commented that they had spent 94 days in prison and could wait for the same length of time if need be. The Gardai were unsure of their legal right to evict the locals for trespassing from the public land.
By the time darkness fell (one shift change later for Gardai and Shell security) the locals were still inside. Supporters on the outside of the fence joined them. Soup and sandwiches were passed over the fence to the locals inside the compound but the security guards and Gardai alike rejected offers of food. A playful atmosphere emerged with protesters twice locking themselves inside the security guards portacabin in the space of half an hour and Gardai sitting in cars outside the compound chatting. As we left sleeping bags and tents had been passed over the fence– presumably the intention was that some people would stay in the woods for the evening.
Thursday morning saw a group of seven protesters emerge from the woods as the sun came up. The RPS crew had not shown up for work by 9.30 so the group left the area. Around lunchtime there was still a group of security guards standing by the drilling machine and a garda van outside however no attempt was made to restart the drilling work. Within the last hour however, work has started in erecting extra fencing outside this site. It seems that RPS are following the lead of Shell and once again attempting to fence themselves off from the locals rather than engage with the genuine concerns that the community have regarding the pipeline route.
In a follow-up to Tuesday’s halting of drilling work on Glengad SAC, RPS (the company employed by Shell to find the new pipeline route) have admitted that they didn’t have permission to drill where they were drilling, however they claimed to Mid-west radio that once they contact National Parks & Wildlife (NPWS) they will be allowed to drill. However it is still the belief locally, that the Minister for Environment must give permission in-order to carry out work on an SAC.