Today’s ‘Day of Action’ in Bellanaboy was the most successful to date with up to one hundred protesters, including ten members of éirígí, breaching the perimeter of the Shell site despite the massive security operation that had been put in place by the Gardai.
The 7am start did not deter more than two hundred people turning out to protest at both the giveaway of Ireland’s gas reserves and the highly questionable safety aspects of the Shell project. The usually small daily protest at the site swelled dramatically in size as members of the local Erris community were joined by supporters and natural resource activists from across the country.
The first element of the ‘Day of Action’, which lasted roughly forty-five minutes, involved a ‘sit-down’ protest by one hundred and fifty people across the main entrance to the Shell site. When it became apparent that another entrance was being used by the contractors a large number of activists decided to enter the site in a legitimate non-violent direct action aimed at shutting down construction of the gas refinery.
Shell’s private security personnel, who initially attempted to violently prevent the mass entrance onto the site, were soon forced to beat a retreat as first individuals and then tens and ultimately scores of protesters scrambled over the front gates.
By the time Garda reinforcements started to arrive, including members of the infamous ‘Public Order Unit’, more then one hundred protesters were across not only the front
While some activists roamed around the vast construction area others, including three éirígí members, climbed on top of plant machinery, thus forcing the operators to cease working.
As the numbers of Gardai on site began to grow so too did the levels of aggression of the so-called ‘guardians of the peace’. Following a number of incidents in which the Gardai attacked protesters it was decided by the activists to regroup and move into view of the main ‘oil road’ where supporters and television crews were located.
This group, of up to one hundred people linking arms and moving slowly and peacefully back towards the main entrance, was repeatedly pushed, kicked and punched by dozens of Gardai. A number of people were also arrested or detained at this point including a an éirígí member from Belfast.
Once the main road was again visible another ‘sit down’ protest began. Within ten minutes the Gardai were again attacked protesters, dragging people along the concrete by the legs, arms, clothes or, in at least one case, the hair.
Through simple brute force the site was eventually cleared, but not before five people were arrested and many others were injured.
Speaking after the site incursion éirígí chairperson Brian Leeson commended the discipline and bravery of those who had taken part in the ‘Day of Action’, ‘While Bertie Ahern today squirmed in the Mahon Tribunal in Dublin his police were attacking peaceful protesters in Mayo.
‘And for what? To ensure that Shell gets its’ hands on billions of euros worth of our gas. It’s deeply ironic that while one member of the Fianna Fail ‘north-side mafia’ attempts to explain away tens of thousands of euros of suspicious payments the people of Erris are dealing with consequences of the actions of another member of that same mafia. Ray Burke too received numerous suspicious payments, many of them around the time that he gave away Ireland’s oil and gas reserves.
‘Any one of those people who today risked arrest or injury in defence of the rights of the people of Ireland demonstrated more integrity in two hours than Ahern and his Fianna Fail cronies have demonstrated in their lifetimes.
‘The struggle in Erris is far from over. I look forward to the next ‘Day of Action’ when hopefully many more people will join us in putting an end to Shell’s operation in Ireland.’
Five protesters, including one member of éirígí from Dublin, were brought to Belmullet Garda Barracks before being released.
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