The largest pipelaying vessel in the world, the 1,300 ft Solitaire has arrived in Broadhaven Bay, in Co. Mayo.
Shell has employed a “small army” of private security men, backed up by gardai, to protect the landfall area.
The Dutch-owned Solitaire can lay between four and seven km of pipeline a day and normally carries a crew of around 400. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib Gas field. Shell’s External Affairs Manager John Egan said 22 vessels will be involved in the Corrib project: “You could describe it as the Corrib armada.” Protestors claim Shell is attempting to construct the first 200m of the 9.2km onshore section of the pipeline before An Bord Pleanala makes its decision on the onshore section.
Thursday, July 24th: Over 40 gardaí, stationed in the Shell compound, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad beach so that Shell could erect 10ft high fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Gardai ordered the crowd to leave the area and then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. Members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when they tore down the cliff-face to create a causeway down to the beach. According to protestors, it was a joint Garda & Shell operation.
Gardai and Shell security formed a cordon around where they were planning to put up the fencing, and then Gardai came in and forcibly removed the protestors who were inside the security bubble. There was little that the group of around 30 protestors could do but watch as the fencing was erected down to the water’s edge. It is presumed that Shell will seek to extend the fencing further once the tide has gone out again. However far it extends, it already cuts the public beach in two, which of course means that users do not have the right of way through the beach.
The legality of the consents are an issue of major concern as it is unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. Green Party Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. A spokeswoman said that all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the Department’s website.
Shell is now attempting to construct up to the first 200m metres of the onshore section of the pipeline without planning permission. Although the remaining 9.2km of the onshore pipeline is presently before An Bord Pleanala, this first 200m metres is due to be laid before a decision on the rest of the onshore section has been made. The further destruction of this Special Area of Conservation has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
16th August 2008: The Rossport Solidarity Camp was set up again for the purposes of reorganising Shell to Sea resistance to Shell’s latest plans to construct its offshore section of the pipeline from Glengad out to the Corrib Gas Field. Protests are ongoing, involving both Shell to Sea activists and members of the local community.
29th August: An Irish naval vessel was deployed as protests mounted over the controversial Shell gas pipeline. The Irish Defence Forces said the LE Orla, with 39 crew onboard, was requested by gardaí as back-up at Broadhaven Bay, Co Mayo.
A spokesman for the naval service said he could not recall any of its ships ever being directly involved in an operation against civil demonstrations.
2nd September: Another Irish Naval Service vessel arrived off the Mayo Coast. The Irish Naval Service is composed of seven vessels. The priority which is being given to this operation is an indication its political character.
Tuesday September 9th: The Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven Bay, as the accompanying security operation intensified. Extra Gardaí; including special public order units have arrived. Local schoolteacher Maura Harrington has gone on hunger strike at the gates of the compound. Her demand is that the Solitaire leave the bay or else her hunger strike will continue.
Wednesday September 10th: Pipelaying work is temporarily suspended. According to local newspaper, The Mayo Echo, unnamed Irish Naval sources have stated their concern that a British nuclear submarine is positioned 11 miles off the Mayo coast and is providing direct assistance to the Irish authorities in monitoring communications. So far the Irish Government has refused either to confirm or deny this report. A Royal Navy spokesman, while refusing to confirm or deny the report, stated that if there is a submarine in Irish waters “then it wouldn’t be there without the permission of the Irish authorities.”
Thursday September 18th: Shell announces that the Solitaire pipe laying ship is to depart from Irish territorial waters and go to Sctoland for repair and assessment.
Friday September 19th: Maura Harrington ends her hunger strike.