Shell finally get their TBM out of the bog after week of resistance

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On Monday we provided the first report & video of the secret Shell convoy that had left Dublin port with a massive police escourt late Sunday night. This turned out to be the start of a week of frantic activity as the Convoy was tracked across the country and then subject to repeated blockades as it neared Erris.  Whether because of this pressure or not on near its final destination the convoy missed a key turn with the main truck and its load of 160 tons jacknifing on a tight turn and starting to slide into the roadside bog.  With a massive mobilisation of Garda and private security Shell finally dragged out the truck Friday. The report that follows gives an account of the final day, you will find moment by moment reports of the rest of the resistance during the week on the WSM Facebook page and WSM Twitter.

150 Gardai to move TBM 5km; Mayo County Council begin cover-up

An account of Friday's events on the day the tunnel boring machine was moved.

As those following the story will no doubt have heard by now, the TBM was moved yesterday.

Aware that something was going to happen, campaigners spent the night at Glenamoy sleeping in cars and vans, aware that something was going to happen. Two slept under the bridge. Localyil residents nearby told us how the road had sunk 4 inches in the last few days, while other parts were ruined from the exceptional traffic. We're sure the Council will not be so quick to do those repairs...

At 4am, gardai began to swarm into the area. 150 IRMS security also marched up the road. We ran up, but the sheer weight of numbers kept us back. Ten managed to get into the field on the side where the truck was listing. Suddenly, 40 IRMS came in and set up a fence. Diggers and trucks of stone came in and for the next ten hours, Shell filled in ditches and built up a road around the collapsed bank. The crane plan had been abandoned and its seemed the field owner had given permission. Thus, without warning the crossroads were closed to all traffic, causing chaos yet again. Shell only later offered its usual bland, 'sorry for the inconvenience' shite.

Rumour is it that the crane stopped the previous day simply turned around and went home after being stopped. And that Shell were desperately trying to find a replacement – offering 15K for a crane driver alone to do the job, and another 50K for a crane itself.

Those in the field, having been given directions to go there when the road was being cleared were told they were being detained there and physically prevented from leaving by gardai. After watching the spectacle close up for a couple of hours, they made their way through other fields to get out.

Maura Harrington's van was stopped at Bellinaboy by Gardai and had its back window deliberately smashed by Sgt Dermot Butler, the well known bully of the public order unit – his former partner now has a restraining order against them, but in the dubious ranks of Mayo's police, that probably puts him in line for a promotion. Maura was arrested and charged, though subsequently released and the van returned in what was a blatant occasion of preventative detention.

Another campaigner also had their car impounded; while a third person was told their van could only leave the area if a garda drove it back to camp. There was quite a pattern were known protesters were being denied right of passage along the road, while other were stopped outright or repeatedly harassed and searched. Those walking had their own personal garda escort, and every fifty meters from Glenamoy to Bellinaboy there was at least one garda standing – someone counted them and the total there alone came to 80. We heard of checkpoints set up as far as Bangor Erris.

Butler continued his customary incivility when a local resident went to Belmullet garda station to have his tax return signed – Butler opened the hatch and said I'm not signing that for the likes of you, before slamming the hatch shut.

Betty Schults, a well known local campaigner, and others were following the trail of who had given permission for the TBM trucks to go up to Glenamoy in the first place. Having been told that documentation was at the Castlebar headquarters of Mayo County Council, she made the 100km round trip only to receive a phonecall telling her that it was missing from the file just as she arrived.

At 2pm we had news the TBM was moving so we headed down to Ballyscelly junction to witness it. Vehicles were backed up all along it, one local resident unable to get to her elderly mother who was at home alone. As usual, gardai were happy to block the road entirely for Shell, causing massive disruption as even the backroads were closed off this time.

The twitchiness of An Gardai Síochána was apparent. They were desperate to see this go off without any hitches. As the tunnel boring machine came up the road, 38 gardai walking in front of the truck alone. IRMS security were also floating around. With such numbers there was little that could be done. Punctuating all this was a thunderstorm right overhead.

The subject of such massive operation, which underlines its importance, it was clear that the TBM would be delivered back to Bellinaboy. Yet for five days it was stuck at Glenamoy, a national news story and galvinizing the surrounding communities. Shell was at the centre of the embarrassment; An Gardai Síochána left red-faced, their ability to respond reduced to simple thuggery; and the blatant criminal collusion of Mayo County Council becoming apparent once more. Ironic, as Friday was elven years to the very day that Mayo County Council signed their first agreement with Shell.

As we sat in a local pub, swapping stories of the week, it was clear that there is hardly a local who does not believe Mayo county manager, Peter Hynes, has not sold his soul to Shell. The question is for how much. Certainly he does not have the trust or respect of anyone up here.

The battle is not over yet. The TBM has not got to where it is meant to, Aghoos. Before that can happen, the road at Ballyscelly junction has to be built up so it can turn. More pieces of it have still to arrive. Aghoos is not yet ready for it either, being plagued by flooding, while the weight of the TBM is not going to do the fracturing ground at Bellinaboy refinery any good either.

Shell have shot themselves in the foot several times; not only a huge embarrassment that made national headlines, it showed the ongoing strength of resistance coming from the community here. As we sat in the pub last night we could hear the buzz of a people fighting back.

As ever the camp is open to all who want to come and support, though you might have to mind the moat and drawbridge...

WORDS: Restful camper on
Photo: NH

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