Shell to Sea: Wikis


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Members of An Garda Síochána and Shell To Sea campaigners scuffle over ownership of a road (June 2007)

Shell to Sea (in Irish, Shell chun Sáile) is a campaign based in County Mayo, Ireland which opposes the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline through Rossport, and also opposes the ongoing construction by Royal Dutch Shell, StatoilHydro and Marathon Oil of a refinery at Bellanaboy intended to refine the natural gas from the Corrib gas field. The stated aim of the campaign is that the gas be refined at sea, rather than inland, as is done with Ireland's only other producing gas field off County Cork. They maintain the proximity of a natural gas pipeline is a risk to local residents.[1]



Shell to Sea banner, Belmullet, January 2009

Opposition to the gas consortium and government's plans among local residents grew from 2000 when local residents felt they were not adequately consulted. They opposed planning permission and appealed it to An Bord Pleanála twice. It was felt that government pressure was used to force the planning permission through. They also felt misled about the safety of the gas pipeline which did not require planning permission (Gas Act 1976)[2]

Shell to Sea protesters destroy a section of fence around the Shell compound, Glengad beach, September 2008

The first event organised by S2S was on the June Bank Holiday weekend 2005 in support of Rossport resident's protests.[3]

Local landowners in Rossport were told that the raw gas pipeline would be coming through their lands no matter what, and that they would be subject to Compulsory Acquisition Orders if unwilling to reach a deal with Shell.[2] Some [2] agreed to allow Shell on their lands. Others refused, and Frank Fahey, then Minister for the Marine & Natural Resources signed 34 Compulsory Acquisition Orders. Those who had refused were threatened with legal action. Legal action was taken which eventually culminated in four farmers and their former teacher, who had joined them in blocking Shell workers coming on their lands, being jailed, for civil contempt of court (at the request of Shell). after refusing not to interfere with shell's workers. They became known as the Rossport Five.

24-hour pickets on the Shell sites at Rossport, Bellanaboy and Glengad began after their jailing.[2] Rallies in support of the men's stance were held in major towns and cities, and Shell and Statoil filling stations were picketed.[2][4] From these protests emerged the people who went on to join and strengthen S2S.


Shell to Sea mural on a gable by the Glenamoy River

The campaign has a diverse support base[citation needed], including people from many different political backgrounds[citation needed] and those with no strong politics at all[citation needed]. Local campaigners include former Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael supporters. Philip McGrath, one of the Rossport Five, was an election agent for Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. Werner Blau, a physics professor at Trinity College, Dublin, and part-time Rossport resident, told his neighbours that the pipeline intended for Rossport would not even comply with United States standards which he described as "pretty lax".[5] In its rankings of countries' facilitation of oil and gas companies, the World Bank rates Ireland in its highest, "very favourable" category[citation needed], along with Pakistan and Argentina. By comparison, Nigeria is rated average. Mike Cunningham, a former director of Statoil, said: "No country in the world gives as favourable terms to the oil companies as Ireland." This is a result of legislation created by Ray Burke, who served as Minister of Communications and Energy.[6]

Many people from outside Erris are concerned about aspects of the proposed project beyond the injustice of the Rossport Five case and the health and safety fears of residents. These include the use of compulsory orders to acquire property for private companies and what many regard as the over generous terms given to the oil companies by successive Fianna Fáil governments.[7]

People from the Niger Delta now resident in Ireland have expressed support. A mural of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed after leading a campaign to reduce Shell's influence in Ogoniland, has been painted on a gable in Rossport and a memorial to the Ogoni Nine erected

The suspicions of many that Shell were bribing influential Erris people for support were strengthened when the owner of a local adventure centre was offered €15,000 by Shell for a climbing wall in 2005.[8]

Negotiations fail and protests continue

Shell to Sea press conference, November 2006. Front (L-R):Martin Ferris TD, Jerry Cowley TD, Joe Higgins TD, Trevor Sargent TD. Back: Labour Party president Michael D. Higgins TD and Senator David Norris.

The Rossport Five were released in late 2005. Peter Cassells was appointed as a negotiator to arbitrate between the campaigners and Shell. As his remit did not include discussing the refinery, he was regarded as a distraction by Shell to Sea. The pickets at Bellanaboy continued for over a year, during which no work was done by Shell.

On Tuesday September 26, 2006, protesters prevented Shell's employees from entering the site of the intended refinery at Bellanaboy to begin work. Around 150 locals and protesters blocked the entrance to the refinery site and began to recite the rosary. The workers turned back[citation needed] after discussions with Gardaí[citation needed].

One week later on 3 October, more Gardaí were brought in from around the country, which increased their numbers to around 170. This marked a departure in Garda tactics which they have held to. An Irish Times editorial stated: "The Garda baton charges that occurred on Friday morning in Bellanaboy were not the product of Sinn Féin or Provisional IRA machinations; they were the product of abject Government incompetence."[9] A decision to avoid arresting protesters in order to damp down the negative publicity that would ensue was discussed in the Garda magazine, Garda Review. A number of people were injured and one young woman was brought to hospital.[10]
Protesters occupied Shell Ireland HQ in Dublin's Leeson Street[11] and daily protests continued at Bellanaboy with some arrest made.[12][13]

Protest at gate of intended refinery site, Bellanaboy, September 2007

A second large scale protest march took place on November 10, the anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other anti-Shell activists in Nigeria in 1995. When protesters worked their way around Gardaí lines, clashes occurred, resulting in several injuries. Small groups of demonstrators who had been unable to get to the refinery attempted to blockade the nearby Lennon's quarry which supplies material for the construction of the site.[14]

There was political controversy in Ireland about the use of such force on a peaceful demonstration. The Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said in a statement that the Irish government's position was clear in relation to the Corrib gas situation - that the negotiating is over and "that is it". In relation to the policing of the protests, he and Opposition leader Enda Kenny would only reiterate that "the law must be obeyed".

A further large scale protest at Bellanaboy scheduled for November 24 was cancelled by the protesters for fear of further serious injuries from Gardaí.[15]


On June 5, five protestors chained themselves together[citation needed] outside the Bord na Móna facility near Bangor Erris where Shell have being dumping the peat removed from Bellinaboy.

On September 12, a protester charged with public order offences had her case dismissed in Belmullet because of conflicting Garda evidence. She dismissed most of the charges and sentenced, the five protesters from June. to community service for threatening and abusive behaviour. The judge also disclosed that she had received "hate mail". [16]


Shell to Sea kayak training, Glengad, August 2008

In April 2008, a new group was set up by people formerly active in S2S. Pobal Chill Chomáin proposed moving the refinery to Glinsk, which would have removed the necessity to transport the gas near people's homes and under road,, The proposal was rejected by both Shell[citation needed] and the government[citation needed].

In 2008, a new security firm, Integrated Risk Management Services, was brought in to defend Shell's preparations for the landfall of the raw gas pipeline. In August, S2S began training for marine protests in anticipation of the arrival of the Allseas pipe-laying ship Solitaire, the biggest of its kind in the world with a collection of small boats.

Iollan Ó'Mongáin, son of Maura Harrington, is detained by four Gardaí in September 2008. A Shell security guard tapes the detention

In the meantime, a local Porturlin fisherman, Pat O'Donnell, laid 800 crab pots along the intended path of the Solitaire, and defended them from Shell survey boats which attempted to remove them. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stated that as both parties had licenses for their activities, they would have to sort it out between themselves. Two Irish Navy ships arrived in Broadhaven Bay to assist the Garda Water Unit in dealing with the protests. The Solitaire was boarded by S2S activists in Killybegs. Not long after it arrived to Mayo's coast, the ship's company said it had suffered damage to its crane. It returned to Britain for repairs. Maura Harrington began a hunger strike to coincide with the arrival of the Solitaire, the Allseas pipe-laying vessel, in Broadhaven Bay. Harrington, who had recently retired as principal of the local Inver Primary School,[17] continued her protest until the ship left Irish waters.[18]


In March 2009, Maura Harrington was sentenced to a month in Mountjoy Prison, for assaulting a Garda at McGrath's pier (see top picture). In July 2009, Niall Harnett and Maura Harrington, two leading Corrib gas activists were jailed for four months over demonstrations.[19]

In November 2009 the Garda Ombudsman Commission recommended that disciplinary action be taken against a senior member of An Garda Síochána over the handling of the June 2007 protest.[citation needed] In a separate development, An Bord Pleanála found that up to half of the final section of Shell’s proposed route for the onshore pipeline was ‘unacceptable’ on safety grounds.[citation needed]

Rossport Solidarity Camp

Rossport Solidarity Camp‎ , Rossport, February 2007

The Rossport Solidarity Camp was originally set up on ‘Rossport 5’ Philip McGrath’s land in early July 2005. The site of the camp was on the proposed pipeline route. Set up at the request of local people who sought outside support in their campaign against the gas project, it houses national and international activists. In the Spring of 2006 the camp was set up again close to the beach at Glengad near the ‘landfall’ for Shell’s proposed pipeline. Mayo County Council evicted the camp and it closed in December 2007. Since then the 'camp' has been organised from the Rossport Solidarity House in Pollathomas. On Saturday 16 August 2008 the camp was set up afresh with two large tents.[20] In August 2008 the camp members picketed the Shell compound near the beach at Glengad.[21] It organises informational weekends etc. In the same month they organised a beach party weekend to highlight the Glengad beach landfall site [22] In June 2009 about 40 Gardaí were stationed below the Camp to prevent activists from accessing either the beach or the sea.[23]


It has been claimed that the IRA or Sinn Féin have an element of control over the Shell to Sea campaign. This was encouraged by the former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and various national newspapers. .[24] However a prominent local Sinn Féin member works for Shell.[citation needed]

Members of the campaign were caricatured as tree-hugging hippies. ecowarriors and "sub-intellectual" peasants.[25] Stories of infiltration by political activists from outside the area and intimidation of project supporters had also been rife, but these were refuted by the then independent TD Jerry Cowley and local Fine Gael TD Michael Ring.[15] Ring originally supported S2S changed his position.[26] Allegations of intimidation were also made by the Gardaí, no arrests were made or individuals questioned. The president of Belmullet chamber of commerce told the media that what was described as "intimidation" is actually boycotting of pro-Shell businesses by S2S supporters. He told the Irish Times: "It has never been anything more serious than that, but that is serious enough."[27]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e "FIOSRU - November 9" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  3. ^ An Phoblacht Shell's assault on Erris
  4. ^ "Campaign grows across Ireland". An Phoblacht. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  5. ^ Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent. "Jailing of Irish villagers sparks anger as farmers defy Shell in Battle of the Bog | World news | The Guardian". The Guardian.,,1530695,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. ^ "RTÉ News: Burke starts sentence in Arbour Hill". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  7. ^ "Protest Stalls Energy Giant in Rural Ireland". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  8. ^ Irish Times, November 27, 2006
  9. ^ Irish Times, November 26, 2006
  10. ^ ""Mayo News" article 3rd October 2006". 2006-10-03. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  11. ^ "RTÉ news report 11th October". 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  12. ^ "RTÉ news report 12th October 2006". 2006-10-12. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  13. ^ "RTÉ NEWS OCTOBER 20TH 2006". 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  14. ^ "RTÉ News November 10th". 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  15. ^ a b 21/11/2006 - 16:12:21 (2006-11-21). "'Shell to Sea' campaign gets cross-party support". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  16. ^ ""Western People" article 20th September 2007". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  17. ^ "Corrib work suspended for 'technical' reasons - The Irish Times - Wed, Sep 10, 2008". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  18. ^ "Shell to Sea protester ends 10-day hunger strike - The Irish Times - Sat, Sep 20, 2008". Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  19. ^ Two Shell protesters jailed - Irish Times, Gas pipeline protesters jailed - The Press Association
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Village - Politics, Media and Current Affairs in Ireland - Offline". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  25. ^ Evening Herald, October 11, 2006
  26. ^ Workplace bullying (2006-10-21). "Irish Independent 21st October 2006". Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  27. ^ "Erris will never be the same again", Irish Times, November 27, 2006

External links

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