Report on occupation of Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources


On May 21 2010 campaigners with Shell to Sea entered the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources drapped in chains and locked together to mark the 100th day of the imprisonment of Erris fisherman Pat O'Donnell.  This action is part of a national day of protest which includes a protest outside the HQ of Shell on Leeson street, only 50m from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. A public protest starts at 5pm tonight at Shell HQ just across the road from the department.

Within minutes of the occupations a force of at least 14 Gardai including now 2 Garda cars, 2 Garda bikes and a Garda van with 2 Garda cyclists around corner arrived on the scene.  An unmarked car with cutting equipment also arrived.  The last report received indicated that the chains have been cut and Gardai are now taking details of the Shell to Sea campaigners. The two women were taken away in an unmarked car, the two men in a Garda van.

At 5pm as planned upwards of 60 Shell to Sea campaigners gathered outside the Shell HQ on Leeson street with banners and placards expressing solidarity with Pat & Niall.  Leaflets highlighting the jailings and the facts of the campaign were distributed to the rush hour crowd, by the time the picket wound up at 7 all of these had been distributed.  Quite a number of passing cars tooted their support.  After 7 over a dozen people from the picket made their way to Harcourt Terrace Gardai station where we cheered our four imprisoned friends after their release.  Three received cautions, one is charged with section 8 and section 9 of the Public Order Act, a catch all piece of any protest legislation.  Mark, one of the WSM members who had been arrested when congratulated on his release reflected that it was much at "all compared to whats Pat and Niall and many others have had to deal from the State and Shell."

Interestingly they reported that while Gardai were initially treating those locked on roughly this all changed a couple of minutes in when the Gardai received a phone call.  As they were being released they over heard the desk cop ringing 'Eamonn' to say 3 had accepted cautions, presumably Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan had intervened to avoid further embarassment to himself, before the Green Party got to power he was a supposed supporter of the campaign and was even photographed  with a placard expressing this.  Now his department is imposing the project on the local community, a neat example of how the electoral system works.

Pat O'Donnell was is 52 was sentenced in February to seven months in prison for obstructing a Gardai.  The previous summer one of his fishing boats was boarder at night by four masked and armed men who proceeded to sabotage the boat so that it sank.  Pat and his fellow crew member were lucky to escape with their lives.  The Gardai far from pursuing the escape boat of the boarding party instead used the excuse to interrogate Pat.

Pat's boat was sunk just weeks before Shell's pipe lying ship the Solitaire arrived in Broadhaven bay.  When it arrived Gardai arrested Pat and impounded his remaining boats, preventing him from working his fishing grounds which lie along the pipeline route.  The previous summer when the Solitare had failed to succesfully lay a pipeline Pat had also been arrested and released only minutes before a high court case to achieve his release was to be heard.  His release two minutes before the start of the case allowed the judge to refuse to take it.

Speaking from inside the occupation Caoimhe Kerins of Dublin Shell to Sea said: “Pat O’Donnell is a brave and honourable man who has simply stood up for the health and safety rights of his community and for the rights of the people of Ireland to benefit economically and socially from our vast oil and gas resources.”  This is a reference to the hundreds of billions worth of gas and oil that energy exploration companies have been given by the Irish state with only the most token of tax payments (and no royalties) after costs have been deducted.

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