Corrib policing bill tops €1m in month

The high-level garda security operation at Shell’s controversial Corrib gas project cost more than €1m in October, new figures revealed today.

The startling bill for just one month was run up as the energy giant called in the world’s largest pipelaying vessel, The Solitaire, and protesters took to the sea.

The total cost of policing Corrib since 2003 is at least €13.5m.

Scores of uniformed gardaí, the Garda Water Unit, two navy ships and divers, private security firms and garda surveillance teams were deployed in the Rossport and Broadhaven areas of north Mayo as protests escalated at the end of the summer.

The Department of Justice defended the costs.

“We are a sovereign state and we have a duty to protect people’s safety. If there was a peaceful protest there, things would be fine,” a spokesman for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said.

“Both the company and employees are entitled to be protected while these protests continue. As a government we have a duty to protect individuals in carrying out their lawful work in relation to Corrib.”

The giant 300m (984ft) Dutch-owned Solitaire pipe laying vessel was brought in to Broadhaven Bay in September but Shell was forced to abandon its plans within days claiming the ship had been damaged in rough weather.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Aengus O Snódaigh called on the minister to explain the massive €13.5m spending – more than half the allocation for Operation Anvil and the fight against gangland crime.

“These protestors are not hardened criminals they are ordinary people making a stand against a major company,” the Dublin Sinn Féin TD said.

“The minister must also explain why the figure for the month of October was far higher than that of other months at just over €1m.

“This money would be much better spent on policing real problems in Irish society such as the drugs trade which is fuelling gang crime throughout the state.”

The minister’s spokesman hit back: “Sinn Féin might be better off asking the people who are protesting to desist or at least carry it out in a peaceful way.”

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