Tensions high as community faces Shell showdown

A massive security operation was under way in Co Mayo today as work on the final stages of energy giant Shell’s bitterly disputed gas refinery began.

A massive security operation was under way in Co Mayo today as work on the final stages of energy giant Shell’s bitterly disputed gas refinery began.

Two Navy vessels, as many as 300 Garda officers and private security guards were drafted into Glengad, in north Mayo, as tensions rose between protesters and authorities.

The arrival of the world’s largest pipelaying ship, the Solitaire, outside Broadhaven Bay sparked fears of a repeat of sea and land clashes which marred a similar attempt to complete the contentious works last year.

John Monaghan of the Pobal Chill Chomain community organisation, which is opposed to the pipeline being brought ashore, said local residents were bracing themselves for a stand-off.

“It may lead to extremely dangerous protests and God knows what is going to happen. We fear for the worst,” he said.

Former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq Denis Halliday waded into the protracted dispute after a local fisherman, who is opposed to the refinery, was arrested.

“I think the Irish people are not getting the whole story. These people who object are not trouble-makers, they are not terrorists, they are not dangerous people,” the UN veteran said of the demonstrations.

“They are normal Irish people living in a quiet community who are being threatened – their way of life is being threatened.”

Gardaí confirmed one fisherman was arrested yesterday under the Public Order Act on suspicion of entering an exclusion zone thrown up by Shell around the works.

Campaigners, who dispute the exclusion zone has any legal basis, claim another fisherman Pat O’Donnell – whose boat was sunk just weeks ago in mysterious circumstances – was injured and hospitalised after an altercation.

A man in his 20s and an 18-year-old woman were arrested on Wednesday under the Public Order Act after swimming into the bay to protest.

Mr Monaghan questioned the scale of the security operation and the involvement of the State in a row between Shell and local campaigners.

“It seems now like our parish is in lockdown,” he said.

“I’m sure that’s going to lead to trouble later if they’re going to restrict people’s freedom of movement.”

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