22 July 2005

Protests target Shell and Statoil

Daily Ireland

By LARRY LEVIN Dublin Correspondent

As five Mayo men enter the fourth week of imprisonment over their opposition to the Shell Corrib gas pipeline and with no end in sight to the controversy, their families and friends are calling for renewed nationwide protests in support of the men.
In Dublin today, supporters will be picketing 20 Statoil service stations throughout the city during the evening rush hour. Statoil is the Norwegian state oil company that has a large stake in the gas field off the Mayo coast, where the pipeline would originate before it comes onshore.
Also, Sinn Féin is calling for a day of action today and organising its own protests at Shell and Statoil stations throughout the country.
Tomorrow, a national demonstration is planned for Dublin. The Shell to Sea campaign, the lead organisation fighting the construction of the pipeline, is calling on supporters to gather at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square at 2pm. The event will begin with a march down O’Connell Street to Trinity College and back to the GPO, where a rally will be held.
The campaign is now taking on a higher political profile in Dublin. For the first time, Labour party leader Pat Rabbitte will participate in a demonstration, joining tomorrow’s march and addressing the rally. He met with the men at Cloverhill prison on Wednesday and said he was “seriously disturbed about the way in which the orders against these five defendants were obtained”. Shell E&P Ireland brought the original court action against the imprisoned men.
Mr Rabbitte, a Mayo-born TD, questioned the legality of Shell’s actions.
“Neither construction nor installation of the pipeline by Shell were permissible. Yet the company somehow managed to get a court order restraining others from interfering with what would in fact have been unlawful acts on its part,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, a Mayo TD, is coming under increasing criticism. Maura Herrington, a spokeswoman for the Shell to Sea campaign, called Mr Kenny “increasingly irrelevant because he has shown no capacity to engage” with his constituents on the issue.
She says that campaign supporters have had little contact with him and that “in so far as we think of him at all, we wonder if he actually exists.
“Does he fully support Shell in their plans or does he support the citizens of his own constituency who want Shell to stay offshore? He should be able to state that,” she said.
The political stakes in the conflict also appear to be rising. Campaigners are no longer directing their anger solely at Shell and its partners in the project. Many are now laying the blame for the stalemate directly at the doorstep of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
“It’s not just Shell we’re fighting – it’s the government, up to and including the Taoiseach,” said Ms Harrington.
“The state, quite literally, is willing to throw its own citizens in a sparsely populated part of the country to the corporate dogs.
“The state considers the health, safety and welfare of its own citizens expendable to corporate wishes.”
Another Mayo TD, Independent Jerry Cowley, said the government was “colluding with Shell to allow Shell to do what it wants without any local planning permission.” He called it “a mockery of the whole system.”
Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty is calling on Tyrone and Armagh GAA fans who will be travelling to Dublin for their match at Croke Park on Saturday to come early to support the march and join the rally.

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