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International Herald Tribune: Police clash with anti-Shell protesters as construction resumes on Irish pipeline

The Associated Press
Published: October 3, 2006
DUBLIN, Ireland Police clashed with environmentalist protesters Tuesday as construction resumed on a gas pipeline project led by Royal Dutch Shell PLC.
Activists opposed to Shell’s pipeline project in County Mayo, western Ireland, had managed to block construction of the project for more than a year. But about 170 police deployed at dawn at the intended onshore terminus for the pipeline to push away protesters who have maintained a round-the-clock vigil at the site for weeks.
Officers removed about 80 protesters, two of whom reported they suffered injuries, to clear the way for several dozen construction workers to enter the site in a convoy of cars and trucks. On their first attempt last week, police struggled but failed to clear away the protesters.
A left-wing Mayo member of Ireland’s parliament, Jerry Cowley, who is also a medical doctor, treated one woman’s injuries. He accused police of heavy-handed tactics.
“She was lifted up by her chin and pushed back. She had a lot of abrasions on her neck. … She could hardly breathe,” said Cowley, who joined the protest.
The pipeline would deliver raw natural gas from the Corrib field, which was discovered in 1996 about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the Mayo coast and has estimated reserves valued at €850 million (US$1.1 billion).
Shell and its junior development partners — Norway’s Statoil ASA with a 36.5 percent stake and U.S.-based Marathon Oil Corp.’s 18.5 percent — had hoped to launch production in 2007, but oil analysts say it probably won’t happen until the end of 2008.
Corrib gas could transform the Irish market, which depends on British imports to meet about 85 percent of its natural gas needs. Shell estimates Corrib gas could provide about 60 percent of Ireland’s needs for the next 15 to 20 years.
For two years, campaigners have demanded that Shell reroute the pipeline away from a rural hamlet called Rossport and build the processing facility offshore. Their effort captured national attention and much public sympathy last year, when five Rossport men spent 94 days in jail for refusing to observe a court order barring them from the construction site.
In August, Shell accepted a mediator’s recommendation to shift the route of the 9-kilometer (5.5-mile) onshore portion of the pipeline away from Rossport. The anti-Shell campaigners insist the entire operation should be kept off shore, an option that Shell and government engineers say would be impractical.
Police shut down public roads leading to the construction site Tuesday in hopes of preventing more protesters from rallying there. A police spokesman, Inspector Ray McHugh, said officers would guard the site “as long as we have to. We are not putting a time frame on it.”
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