Rosary protest blocks Shell workers

IT was power versus prayer at the Corrib Gas terminal in Mayo yesterday as one of the world’s largest oil companies was faced down by protesters reciting the rosary.

More than 100 members of the Shell to Sea campaign chanted the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary as Garda Superintendent Joseph Gannon demanded that access be given to 60 workers who turned up to work at the terminal site.

Work had to be abandoned last year due to similar protests and yesterday, despite garda pleas, the blockade again stood its ground.

In the evening these protests were supported by demonstrations at two petrol stations in Dublin operated by Statoil and Shell.

Willie Corduff was among the protesters who blocked access to the Bellanaboy terminal site. He carried rosary beads in one hand and issued a defiant statement that the group would not move on even if the army arrived, as had been rumoured.

He said: “We’re here for the long haul. We are protecting our families and our homes. We do not want Shell in here.”

However at the opposite side of the blockade the contractors were not impressed at having to turn back. Jim Mulcair, director of the Limerick-based company Roadbridge Ltd, said he had 80 workers who had just finished work on the Mayo/Galway gas line and were hoping to be transferred immediately to the Bellanaboy site.

He said: “They are mostly local people from Erris and will have to be laid off if they cannot get in to do work in the proposed terminal area”. Similarly, Shell E&P Ireland expressed its frustration at the continued disruption at the construction site, according to its deputy managing director Terry Nolan.

“We have taken every reasonable step over the past year to address the concerns around the Corrib project. It is regrettable that despite this local protesters and others from outside the area have prevented our staff and local contractors from going to work.

“I do not believe the protesters represent the views of the wider community in Erris. A small number of people who are unwilling to enter into reasonable dialogue should not be allowed prevent the work on the Bellanaboy gas terminal from recommencing,” he said.

Gardaí have denied that there are any immediate plans to bring in assistance from the army and when its press office was asked was there a strategy in place to open up access to the terminal site a spokesman said, “not at present”.

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