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Violent clashes in Bellanaboy

Maura Harrington is dragged from her car by police
FLASHPOINT Maura Harrington is dragged from her car by police.

Violent clashed in Bellanaboy

Áine Ryan

ACCUSATIONS, counter-accusations, a baton charge, hospitalisations and injuries defined this week’s instalment in the ongoing Corrib gas controversy. The Atlantic-soaked air around Bellanaboy echoed to  warnings of ‘the rule of law’ being adhered to and imposed by both Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and  Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny.
These comments followed Friday’s violent clashes between gardaí and protestors, after around 300 people had gathered to mark the eleventh anniversary of the deaths of nine Ogoni men, including writer Ken Saro Wiwa, who were executed because of their oppositon to a corrupt regime in Nigeria.
Last Monday’s fleeting chink of light, the proposal by Shell to Sea of the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry, had been quickly dismissed by both Shell and Minister Dempsey as ‘unrealistic’ and containing ‘nothing new’. The Labour Party’s strong endorsement of the proposal, along with other opposition parties and a number of Independent TDs was, however, eclipsed by the wide coverage of the clashes.
Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell’s support for the actions of the gardaí and his claim that Sinn Féin was orchestrating events was strongly disputed by that party, who argued he was ‘using scare tactics’ designed to deceive the public, and that the protest was, instead, a community-driven one. Local Sinn Féin councillor, Gerry Murray, confirmed there were about 20 Sinn Féin members in total from around the country at the protest.
Deputy Enda Kenny echoed Minister McDowell’s sentiments. “The safety of both the Gardaí and protestors is being put at risk and it appears this violence is being orchestrated by outside forces who have no connection with the local community.” He also criticised the protestors for diverting gardaí from important work elsewhere.
Local Fianna Fáil councillors, Tim Quinn and Frank Chambers, however, diverged from a strict party line and said, in turn: ‘Government should commission its own review of alternative sites’ and ‘there was an obligation on Government and ourselves here to find a resolution’. 
In a statement on Monday, Shell to Sea’s Dr Mark Garavan condemned ‘the ongoing co-ordinated campaign to de-legitimise and criminalise local opposition to the project’. He argued that certain sections of the media were attempting to propagate ‘false’ and ‘outrageous’ accusations, while Government Ministers and the leader of Fine Gael were deliberately seeking to create the impression that the campaign is orchestrated by sinister ‘outside’ forces.
“All of this is designed to distract from the real issues,” said Dr Garavan, who added that gardaí had employed excessive violence against peaceful demonstrators, causing scores of injuries and a number of hospitalisations on Friday last.
Referring to the proposed Commission of Enquiry, Dr Garavan accused Taoisaeach Bertie Ahern of not being aware of the true facts.
“Contrary to the comments by the Taoiseach, Shell’s project has not been fully approved. There is still no agreed production pipeline route and no consents granted for any such new route. There is no operating licence agreed with the EPA for the gas processing plant at Bellanaboy. The European Commission has recently ruled that the Corrib project has breached the Habitats Directive,” he said.
He confirmed the campaign intends running a ‘Solidarity Day’ in Bellanaboy on November 24 and National Rally in Dublin on December 2.