'Shell to Sea' campaign gets cross-party support

A cross party delegation joined forces today to call for an independent commission over the controversial Corrib gas pipe line.

The campaign against the 9km high pressured pipe line through Rossport, Co Mayo heightened as six public representatives backed local residents’ demands.

Activists earlier stressed they planned to step up their campaign of civil disobedience by organising ways to disrupt workers entering and leaving the gas compound.

Campaigners also revealed a detailed list of myths and realities surrounding the project.

The Shell to Sea campaign group has outlined 15 myths they claim were circulated by Shell throughout the planning process.

They include the company’s agreement to re-route the pipe line away from Rossport, the project having gone through a thorough planning process, gas prices being cut on completion of the pipe line and the project creating hundreds of jobs in the Erris region.

Shell to Sea, which has cancelled its day of solidarity planned for next Friday for fear of tough measures from Gardaí, says it is not against the project but opposed the placing of a high pressure pipe line close to home.

The rainbow coalition backing the campaigners boasts Jerry Cowley, Independent TD for Mayo; Trevor Sargent TD, Leader of the Green Party; Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris; Joe Higgins TD, Socialist Party; Michael D Higgins TD, President of the Labour Party; and Independent Senator David Norris.

The Dáil colleagues, who rarely support each other, have on this occasion vowed to stand side by side on an issue which has divided the small Mayo community.

As workers from the vicinity are bussed in to work at the construction of the terminal at Bellanaboy, near Belmullet, and surrounding quarries, neighbours, friends and relatives are often among the protestors outside.

Violent scenes have erupted at the site in recent weeks with gardaí accused of taking aggressive action against peaceful protesters.

Mr Cowley rejected recent reports outsiders were at the helm of protests.

“This campaign is ruled by local people,” said Mr Cowley.

“The people down there are honest, law abiding, gentle people set upon in an appalling way.

“They have a right to protest. I have never seen anybody raise a fist to a garda.”

The local TD also called for a referendum to strengthen the rights of the people of Ireland in conjunction with a referendum to be held on the rights of the child.

He claims article 10 of the constitution leaves a way for the Government to alienate to a considerable degree what is the property of the Irish people.

“I think the Constitution needs to be strengthened, it is failing to protect our natural resources,” he added.

The delegation highlighted that Irish residents would not benefit from cheaper gas bills, and accused the Government of dodgy dealings in issuing its licence to Shell.

Mr Higgins said the Labour party supported the campaign group’s calls for an independent commission.

He told how one young student in his Galway constituency was struck in the face, kicked in the back and pushed on top of other activists by gardaí as she took part in a peaceful protest outside a quarry.

“I totally oppose provocation to violence and violence itself,” he added.

Mr Norris stressed that the forcefulness of gardaí is against the civil right to protest.

He said it is absolutely abominable to get gardaí to take actions against Irish citizens on behalf of a multinational company, and that harmony in the area had been replaced by bitterness and division aided and abetted by the Government.

“It is a civil right to protest peacefully,” he added.

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