Shell to Sea: Sit Down Protest - 14/09/07

A personal account.

We arrived at the refinery site at around 6am with a car full of protesters and we took the opportunity for an hour’s shuteye in the car before proceedings started. This was most welcome especially by the driver who had driven through the night to get us there.

At 7am we walked up to the meeting point at the front gates of the refinery site at Ballinaboy. It was good to see some old friends from previous shell to sea actions and some new friends I had made while at Ecotopia the previous month in Portugal. Spirits were high and as this was a sit down protest we all sat around chatting, catching up on the events of the summer and speaking of prospects for projects to come in the months ahead.

It soon became known in the crowd that workers and trucks had already made their way in much earlier in the morning than normal well before protesters had gathered. As the crowd was getting rather bored sitting on the cold concrete some wise souls decided it would be best if we went for a walk and where better for a walk than into the refinery site to have a look around.

Once the gates were opened we all sauntered in and soon were forced into a cat and mouse game with security guards who didn’t seem to want us viewing the place where our gas would be processed. The Gardai arrived promptly and they didn’t seem to want us to view it either. Fortunately there wasn’t enough of either to prevent us from taking the tour of the refinery site.

When we got into the main site what struck me was the scale of the project. It would take about 20mins to walk from one end of developed land to the other. There are many huge digging and drilling machines. Some members of the tour decided to stand on machines and halt the work that is going on without local consent. Work was stopped for about an hour and the workers formed an audience on the highest point of the site to view the events.

Eventually the Gardai began to round people up and make arrests. Everyone gathered to support those who were being forcibly removed. We decided to sit down and link arms to hold on for as long as possible. We were all concerned with our friends in our various affinity groups as many were not accounted for. It looked like 4 people were arrested. Eventually more Gardai arrived and they began to get the better of us. As I was being dragged away the two Gardai acted in a most unprofessional manner, not alone did they kick me and punch me but they called me the most awful names!! I decided to walk out the rest of the way and witnessed other protesters being treated in similar manner.

Once outside I was greeted by a load of gardai holding back the photographers and journo types. Unfortunately there was no red carpet.

Foot note: This account has been written in a tongue in cheek style but the issues are very serious indeed. This project is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. The site is in the catchment of the local water supply and the pipeline route is through a special protection area for wildlife.