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Peaceful protest marred

People enter a boggy field near the Shell refinery
BREACH OF SECURITY Under the wire, protestors go onto the Shell site at Bellanaboy last Friday. Pic: Peter Wilcock          

Peaceful protest marred by breach

Áine Ryan

IT was more samba than céilí at the Glenamoy crossroads shortly before 7.30am last Friday morning as hundreds of supporters gathered for a day of support and solidarity for the Shell to Sea campaign. Two miles down the road, at the site of the controversial Bellanaboy refinery, workers were busy inside the fence with their heavy machinery since 6.30am, an earlier start than usual to avoid any possible early morning confrontation. However, that wasn’t the plan, it seemed, of the majority of participants in the colourful carnival-like walk.
Ruth Franklin (45) from Derbyshire had travelled specially from England to join the walk. She lived at the Rossport Solidarity Camp last year.
“The camp is very international with people from New Zealand, the US, Belgium, Spain, France and Africa based there,” said Ruth, as she walked to the fore of the 400-plus strong crowd. “It will take a long time to build this refinery and the protest will be here every step of the way and it will keep the oil company in the international spotlight. We are resolute and determined to fight them all the way.” 
Throughout the walk, yellow-jacketed Shell to Sea stewards raced up and down the centre of the narrow,  but straight, stretch of road to ensure that passing traffic was provided with a clear way. The distinctive timbre of Luke Kelly’s voice wafted over the balmy airwaves as he sang Phil Coulter’s ‘The Town I Loved So Well’. The makeshift music system was being rolled along on a green wheelbarrow by a supporter. “Keep to the right-hand side of the road, please. The right-hand side.”
“There’s a great crowd here and it’s sending out a very positive message. I came here to this area 35 years ago and I really thought it was going to be left untouched,” stated Sligo Shell to Sea supporter and renowned traditional musician, Gregory Daly. “ I was so sure that this would be handed over unspoilt to another generation. How many places like this are left on the planet, never mind Ireland?”
The presence of about 50 gardaí and five paddywagons remained low-key, unobtrusive and to the far side of the gateway as the walkers, with their colourful array of signage and placards, arrived at the gateway shortly after 8am.
Over the PA, Rossport Five’s Vincent McGrath announced: “Keep the roads clear please. We’ll have Gerry Murray [Sinn Féin councillor).” In the interim, the crowds were  entertained by the playful shenanigans of a group of clowns blowing bubbles and showing a cartoon picture of Bertie Ahern stating “Who owns Berite? Shell. 10 Hospitals. 100 Schools. All gone into Shell’s pocket.”
As Vincent McGrath invited the gathering back to Healy’s Hall for refreshments as gaeilge, a group of drummers with makeshift drums battered the perimeter fence of the Shell site.
An hour later about 100 people broke into the Shell site, while the majority of the protestors had reconvened at Healy’s Hall. They were escorted off the site some time later by dozens of gardaí, on foot and in vans.
By mid-day Shell to Sea spokesman, Dr Mark Garavan had announced that the actions by ‘a number of individuals’ had not been sanctioned by the campaign. However, leading Shell to sea activist, Ms Maura Harrington was on the main RTÉ 1 o’clock news defending the same actions.