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Irish Times: Protests at Shell Corrib gas project

Published: Nov 15, 2006

Madam, – What the media appears to have overlooked in its reporting of Friday’s events in Bellanaboy, Co Mayo, is the fact that a police superintendent, apparently with the approval of the Minister for Justice, arbitrarily decided to ban a legitimate protest march organised by the Shell to Sea campaign.

On Friday morning those intending to participate in the protest gathered at the assembly point, near Bellanaboy Cross at 7am – where people gather every morning for the daily protest march to the Shell site.

However, when people prepared to march on Friday they were faced with a phalanx of gardaI who refused to let anyone pass. No explanation was offered as to why people were not being allowed march. Despite having public address equipment the senior gardaI provided no information to those who had gathered at the assembly point.

Growing more and more frustrated, and without any indication as to why they were not being allowed to march, a number of people decided to walk through the adjacent bogland and assemble further down the road towards the Shell site. Many of these people were batoned by the gardaI.

I had been standing at the assembly point for over two hours when I first learned that an order had been made banning the protest march. A Garda sergeant in the police ranks who recognised me expressed concern about the possibility of trouble escalating. I pointed out that people had been waiting hours to participate in the protest march and they were growing more and more frustrated. He then informed me that the superintendent had made an order the previous night prohibiting the march.

In my view the right to peacefully protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. The fact that a police superintendent could and would arbitrarily decide to ban a protest march surely must be condemned by all who believe in civil liberties. It smacks of Northern Ireland in its worst days.

The decision to ban the march, and the decision not to advise people of the ban, clearly added to the levels of frustration and tension on Friday morning. The order then given by senior gardaI to use batons against protesters cannot be justified.

The week before last Labour and socialist councillors from outside the area proudly participated in the daily protest march to the Shell site at Bellanaboy and expressed their support for the community.

Last week a delegation of senior Labour Party TDs from outside the area took part in the daily protest march and expressed their solidarity with the local community.

This week Enda Kenny blames outside agitators for causing unrest and subversion among the local community in Erris. It’s interesting to note how little has really changed since General O’Duffy led the Blueshirts. – Yours, etc,

Cllr DECLAN BREE, Labour Party, High Street, Sligo. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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