SHELL’S giant tunnel-boring machine was towed from an isolated crossroads in north Mayo this evening after a massive 12-hour operation by Mayo County Council and oil company experts to remove it. The 170-tonne truck and machine had been stuck at the narrow Glenamoy crossroads since it jack-knifed there early on Tuesday morning.
At 4.30am this morning over 100 gardaí escorted a convoy of heavy vehicles to the crossroads for the operation, which involved widening the road to facilitate the removal of the truck.
The machine, which is called Fionnuala, after The Children of Lír, was brought to the main project site for the refinery at Bellanaboy and not to its original destination, where the subsea tunnel is to be dug for the raw gas. Another massive truck, also stuck at the crossroads behind the jack-knifed one, reversed the two miles back to the refinery to ensure a similar incident would not recur.
Apologising for any inconvenience caused to locals, a spokesman for Mayo County Council said ‘the overnight operation was due to protestor activity’. He said the local authority wished to assure people that ‘there was no concern regarding the load-carrying capacity of the Glenamoy Bridge’.
At 4.30am this morning over 100 gardaí escorted a convoy of heavy vehicles to the isolated Glenamoy crossroads in a bid to free Shell’s giant tunnel boring machine.
A spokesman for Rossport Solidarity Camp said the gardaí implemented checkpoints from about ten kilometres away at Bangor Erris. Veteran campaigner, Maura Harrington, was arrested at one of the checkpoints, and the rear window of her van was smashed when she declined to exit it. The van was subsequently impounded and Ms Harrington was detained at Belmullet Garda Station but released later. She was charged with public-order and driving offences.
In a statement Shell E&P Ireland said it ‘apologises once again to the local community and to all road users who were inconvenienced by this incident’.
“The operation to remove the vehicle, which was carrying part of the Corrib tunnel boring machine, was successfully completed at approximately 3pm this afternoon. This was carried out in consultation with the Gardaí and Mayo County Council,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, local residents continue to question the local authority’s assertion that the proper permits exist for this 170 tonne lorry to cross the tiny bridge at Glenamoy.
Ms Betty Schult said she travelled the round trip of 100 miles to Castlebar this afternoon to view the special permit by appointment with the Assistant County Secretary.
“Just as I landed in the carpark I got a phone-call to say it was not available and had been removed from the file. I was told they would provide it on Tuesday,” Ms Schult said.
Rossport resident, Mary Corduff said a council engineer told her that the bridge had not been surveyed. Reportedly, the jack-knifed lorry proceeded to the Glenamoy crossroads after it failed to make a turn to its destination at Aughoose, the site for the subsea tunnel works that will connect the raw gas to the inland refinery.
“This whole fiasco is further proof that this community is under siege and has had valid worries for 12 years about Corrib gas. We cannot trust the people in authority and there is no transparency,” Mary Corduff said.
Spokesman for Pobal Chill Chomáin, John Monaghan, said two of An Bord Pleanála’a conditions for granting planning permission for the controversial project had been flouted.
“Condition 21 stipulates that all roads affected directly and indirectly by the project must be surveyed and Condition 13 states that relevant information must be in the public domain. Over the last few days residents have been given the run-around over the special permits granted for this operation,” Mr Monaghan said.