A number of representatives from the Socialist Party were due to come to north Mayo yesterday to join in with Shell to Sea protesters at Shell’s tunnelling compound at Aghoos. The Socialist Party delegation was headed by Dublin MEP Paul Murphy, who took over the seat won by Joe Higgins at the last European elections following Higgins’ election to the Dáil in February. The group joined local protesters at the tunnelling compound yesterday (August 25 ).
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser yesterday afternoon, Murphy explained how he was involved in a sit down protest in front of a truck which he and about 20 others were forcibly removed from by Gardaí. “We were staging a sit down protest after one other protester had climbed on the roof of a truck coming out of the compound. When the Gardaí arrived, instead of dragging us away, they seemed to want to inflict pain. I had my ear twisted ‘till it became unbearable and I was constantly poked in a very sensitive area under my ribs. It seemed that that they wanted to make you give up and leave and think again about protesting rather than just remove us from there,” Murphy claimed.
Before his arrival in Mayo, MEP Murphy said: “A daily battle is being waged in west Mayo, with the area of Rossport once again being effectively militarised. Peaceful protesters are facing violence and arrest while the Gardaí and Shell’s private security firm work hand in hand. This is a crucial struggle over the preparations for the onshore section of Shell’s high pressure raw gas pipeline that poses a major health and environmental threat to the local community.”
Mr Murphy also hit out at current Minster for Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte and his predecessor Eamon Ryan for flip flopping on the issue. “The conversion from half-hearted supporter of the people of Rossport to Minister responsible for giving away our natural resources is unfortunately now a well-trodden path. Minister Rabbitte is now following in the steps of the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan. Minister Rabbitte should perhaps be reminded of the fact that he personally presented an award to the Rossport Five in 2006. Despite his recent extolling of the give-away of our vital natural resources, the truth remains that working people will see no benefit from the substantial oil and gas reserves that are being given away.”
The visit by Murphy and his delegation comes in a week when Shell to Sea claimed Shell and security company IRMS had illegally closed part of a public road in Aghoos recently. A statement from Shell to Sea this week said: “Shell’s private security company, IRMS, has illegally closed part of the road next to the Aghoos compound. This follows several weeks of frequent roadblocks and illegal detention of campaigners by private security staff on the public road.”
Spokesperson for the protest group, Terence Conway, added: “Gardaí at Belmullet have repeatedly denied that IRMS has been blocking the public road. However, we have photographs to prove this. Campaigners have been assaulted and detained by IRMS staff on the public road as gardaí look on. Today (August 24 ), for the first time, Shell has extended its compound across half of the public road. Gardaí have refused to answer questions about this illegal roadblock.”