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Corrib work suspended for ‘technical’ reasons

Irish Times

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 10, 2008, 18:01

Corrib work suspended for ‘technical’ reasons

ELAINE EDWARDSThe controversial Corrib gas pipe-laying operation off the Mayo coast has been suspended today after a boat involved in preparatory works was damaged, Shell said today.

The oil company said the “end section” of the Solitaire ‘s pipe-delivery equipment had been damaged this morning during “weather-sensitive” preparatory works.

“At this stage it is too early to comment on how this technical problem arose,” Shell said in a statement.

“The offshore pipelay programme in Broadhaven Bay has been suspended until a full assessment of the damaged equipment has been conducted. The Solitaire will return to Killybegs or another harbour for assessment and repair within the next 48 hours.”

Shell said it would give a further update “in the coming days”.

A spokeswoman for the company said the withdrawal of the boat had nothing to do with protests at the site.

Seven people in total were arrested today for alleged public order offences.

Two men, aged 51 and 23, arrested at Broadhaven Bay by the Garda Water Unit at about 8.30am were later released.

Three men and two women were arrested for alleged public order offences at about noon, a Garda spokesman said. One woman was released at about 5.30pm this evening. The others remain in Garda custody and can be held for up to 24 hours.

Three “similar” arrests were made yesterday evening and the men involved were all released without charge, the Garda said. A file on those detentions will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

“An Garda Siochána continue to maintain a presence in the general Bellanaboy area of North Mayo as a consequence of the Shell operations currently being undertaken there,” the statement said.

“The Garda role primarily revolves around two key principles. The first is to ensure that persons who are engaging in lawful activities are allowed do so without interruption and the second is to allow those who wish to peacefully protest within the law do so unimpeded.”

A local group calling itself Pobal le Chéile, comprised of local business people from Belmullet and the Erris area, called for an end to the stand-off between local people and Shell.  It said it supported a proposal that the gas refinery be located “in a remote location” at Glinsk.

In a statement, the group said this was “a time of crisis and conflict in our community”.

“A huge security operation is occurring in our midst, there are protests and arrests and many local people are suffering real fear and serious anxiety. We need all of this to stop now,” the group said. “We need a solution to this conflict which has been put forward by the priests of Kilcommon parish. It said Shell’s temporary suspension of its work provides a “crucial window within which real engagement can begin”.

The group said its members were “pro-gas, moderately minded people” who rejected extreme action from any side.

Earlier, a leading opponent of the pipeline said she had gone on hunger strike to protest against the arrival of the pipe-laying vessel the Solitaire .

Maura Harrington said she handed a letter in to the captain of the Solitaire on Monday which stated she would continue her action until the vessel leaves.

Ms Harrington told The Irish Times she would not come off the hunger strike until Shell confirmed that theSolitaire had been taken out of Irish territorial waters.

© 2008

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